One of the many aspects of the role of criminal lawyers is to consider what submissions and mitigations they are going to make to the court, in relation to sentencing should a client be convicted of a crime.
This requires a thorough knowledge of sentencing rules as they apply in that jurisdiction, what the maximum and minimum sentences might be for any particular crime, and the circumstances that exist with regards to it.
To some extent, punishments for committing a crime are set in order to act as a deterrent, but obviously, if someone has already committed and been convicted of that crime, that deterrent has failed in their instance. However, that does not mean that the knowledge of punishments such as prison sentences, do not act as a deterrent to others.
When it comes to sentencing and the punishments for crimes, there are basically three distinct entities that have a bearing on them. The first is the parliaments that determine what constitutes a crime, pass laws to enact them, and within those laws, there will be sentencing criteria also.
The next entity is the courts, and that will obviously include judges who hand down the punishments. They have leeway with regards to what the punishment may be, although these will always have to be within the boundaries of the law as it applies to any particular crime.
The third group are institutions such as correctional authorities and parole boards, who may not have any direct influence on the initial sentence, however, they have a huge role to play thereafter. The most obvious example is their recommendations with regards to a prisoner having an early release on parole.
When it comes to specific punishments, we have to bear in mind that a crime can be anything from a traffic violation all the way up to committing murder.
We say that as many people think of crimes and punishment purely in terms of people going to prison for serious crimes. In truth, many crimes do not lead to a prison sentence being the punishment and that is down to several factors.
The first is the fact that each crime has what is called a statutory penalty based on its severity. This will outline the punishment that is applicable to a specific crime and what the minimum and maximum penalties are for each crime. Usual punishments can be a fine only, imprisonment only or it can be a fine and imprisonment.
When the court is handing down the sentence based on the statutory penalty it must at least give the minimum sentence, and this normally tends to be the case for minor crimes such as the aforementioned traffic offenses.
For more serious crimes the court can issue anything up to the maximum sentence, however, the Sentencing Act of 1995, also plays a part in the determination of the final punishment issued.
The possible sentences that the 1975 act provides for are as follows in order of their severity:
- No Sentence
- Conditional Release
- Suspended Fine
- Community Order
- Supervision Order
- Suspended Prison Sentence
- Conditional Suspended Prison Sentence
Other factors that can influence the sentence will be whether or not the offender has been convicted before, if assault was perpetrated against someone over the age of 60, and also the offender’s personal circumstances. As well as appealing against their conviction, an offender can also appeal against any sentence that has been handed down.