Purposes and effectiveness of sentencing

Efforts have been made and continue to be made to look at the purposes and effectiveness of sentencing. This has led to the establishment of various bodies to review the purposes and effectiveness of sentencing. A Home Office Review of Sentencing [3] agrees with the view that the current sentencing framework “suffers from serious deficiencies that reduces its contributions to crime reduction and public confidence.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 [4] , sets out the objectives of sentencing that the courts are required to have regard to when dealing with adult offenders. These objectives are as follows:

Punishment of offenders

Reduction of crime ( including reduction by deterrence)

Reform and rehabilitation of offenders

Protection of the Public and

Making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by their offences.

When dealing with a young offender, the courts are directed to have regard to the following:

The principal aim of the youth justice system, which is to prevent youth offending ( or re-offending) by persons aged 18 [5] 

The welfare of the offender [6] 

In addition to these objectives, the courts are also required to take into consideration, aggravating and mitigating factors when deciding sentence. It is based on the above principles, and purposes of sentencing that, I would identify and evaluate those factors that are likely to be taken into account when sentencing, Mr D Welling and Mr Ivor Cutter. I would do so by attempting to place myself in the position of a judge at Derby County Court. In arriving at the sentencing, I would amongst others consider the seriousness of the offences and consider what the aim and purpose of sentencing should be in those cases.

Mr D Welling

Mr Welling, who is 25years old, is convicted of two charges of Burglary of a dwelling after he entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity. According to the pre- sentence report, before the Burglary, Mr Welling and his co- accused had used heroin. The report also states that during the Burglary, the residents were disturbed, a number of personal items were taken and the offenders broke a window to gain entry.

When Mr Welling was arrested, he was in possession of the items stolen as well as a screwdriver, latex gloves and penknife. The second burglary was committed a few days after Mr Welling was bailed for the first offence. He could recall very little because he was under the influence of alcohol. The dwelling is part of a supported housing for elderly people.

Mr Welling and his co- accused posed as Water Board officials pretending to respond to a reported leak. A number of items were taken including a wedding ring, some cash and jewellery. None of the items was retrieved as they had been sold. Mr Welling claims the offence was unplanned.

From the above analysis, in line with the sentencing guidelines, I would argue that the courts would be minded to consider the following issues-, which in my opinion aggravates [7] the situation:

Offence was committed under the influence of alcohol and drugs

Residents were disturbed during the burglary

Burglary related to supported housing for elderly people

Personal items were taken away

A window was damaged as a result of the burglary

Possession of screwdriver, latex gloves and penknife

Posed as Water Board officials

Wedding ring stolen

Wedding ring and other items stolen in the second burglary not retrieved

Previous convictions

Offence committed while on bail

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 [8] sates that the offenders’ culpability in committing the offence and any harm, which the offence caused, was intended to cause or might foreseeably be caused, affects the seriousness of the offence. Having committed the offence while under the influence of alcohol and drug, it could be argued that this conduct, has the tendency to make Mr Welling reckless as to what harm is caused by his act. This has been supported by the pre-sentence report [9] , where he said he gave little thought to the consequences of his act: R v Noble [10] . Another seriousness of the offence is the fact that a dwelling was targeted and the offence is more serious when viewed against the backdrop that, the victims of the offence were vulnerable people [11] because of their age. This is coupled with the fact that the offender was found in possession of screwdriver, latex glove and penknife, makes it appear that the offence was pre-meditated [12] . This argument is more profound when one takes into account the fact that, the offender posed as a Water Board official.

Another issue that adds to the seriousness of the offence is that damage was involved. This according to the Sentencing Guideline Council indicates a high culpability of the offender. The tragedy of the offence is that one of the items stolen in the second burglary was the vulnerable victims’ wedding ring. This without a doubt is a treasured item for anyone not to mention the fact that it belonged to an elderly person. The fact that this item was sold and it was not retrieved in my opinion makes the offenders conduct serious.

I must also mention the fact that the offender represented himself as an official of Service industry is serious. This is because, this type of conduct erodes the trust that service bodies need to render their services. This could fall within the range of abuse of trust even though the offender is not in a position of trust [13] ; his conduct has the potential of affecting trust.

The other issues that make the offence serious are that, the second offence was committed while on bail for the first offence [14] . The case of R v Lincoln [15] supports such a proposition. Not forgetting Mr Wellings previous convictions, which that court would have to take into account. [16] 

Having mentioned the above aggravating circumstances, it is my view that the aim and purpose of sentencing in this case, is mainly to protect the public especially vulnerable people from what the probation officer termed persistent offending. Having said that however, it is my view that considering the background of Mr Welling and his addiction to drugs and alcohol, the purpose of the sentencing should also include, rehabilitation [17] .

In this vein, I speculate that, the offender could get Custodial Sentence of Five years [18] . This takes into account, Mr Welling pleading guilty [19] at the earliest opportunity and the fact that his conduct is to service his drug and alcohol addiction.

Mr Ivor Cutter

Mr Cutter is 22 years old and he is charged with Section 20 offence of Malicious Wounding. This offence took place at a pub, where a misunderstanding occurred between Mr Cutter’s group and the victims group. A member of the other attacked with a snooker cue one of the Mr Cutters group. Mr Cutter tried to push the attacker away, but while he was doing so, he had a beer glass in his hand, which smashed on impact into the victims face.

The victim sustained serious facial wounds leading to the loss of his left eye. He also had to undergo further cosmetic surgery. The victim is said to have given up work as a result.

The issues that the court will be minded to consider in this case would be the following:

Victim has sustained serious injury-loss of left eye

Had to undergo further cosmetic surgery

Had experience difficulties

Had to give up work.

The loss of the left eye of the victim clearly puts this offence in the category of seriousness. What would have to be critically looked at is the culpability of the offender. While it is not clear whether Mr Cutter could be said to be acting as part of a group [20] , it must be indicated that this could also play a role in determining the seriousness of the offence. While these serious factors are likely to be taken into account, the conduct of the victim is also not likely to go unnoticed. This is because; he is reported to have been violent.

The following mitigating circumstances would be taken into account in deciding the sentence:

Personal circumstances

Previous convictions not related to offence of violence

Good work history

Shown remorse

Offence not premeditated.

As per the pre-sentence report, Mr Cutter has no history of causing any direct harm to the public. He is apart from one previous conviction a man of good character, married with an 18-month-old son. What is more, he is the breadwinner of the family. He has also made no excuse for his conduct and has genuinely shown remorse for his conduct and he was trying to make peace.

The aim and purpose of sentencing in this particular case would have to be in line with the Desert Theory [21] . This is because the ultimate aim and purpose of sentencing in such a case is could be to deter others from following suit, but this cannot be appropriate, as this offence was not pre-meditated [22] . It would be therefore imperative that the right balance is struck between the seriousness of the offence and the proportionality of the punishment.

As per the case Singleton [1998] 1 Cr App R (S) 199, I would predict a sentence of 16months for Mr Cutter. This of course takes into consideration the early guilty plea and the fact that the assessment of risk of harm to the public and the likelihood of re-offending is minimal or non-existent.