“How do judges and magistrates decide sentences in this country? Do longer sentences have an effect? Can a prison sentence ever be increased? Who can complain that a sentence is unduly lenient? Does life ever mean life?”
In the United Kingdom, sentencing guidelines are used throughout the country in order to make sure that offenders get fair treatment regardless of location, social class, race, etc. They help to ensure that the courts across the country are consistent in their sentencing. Guidelines are developed through several steps, including priorities, research and approach.
Longer sentences do have an effect, but only to a certain degree. While it is not true for all, the ‘average’ criminal will be most dangerous between their teen years and up to around, but not limited to, their forties. This means that they generally age out, mature are they get older and eventually may even become tired of running from the police, being sentenced, etc. If someone is in prison for long blocks of time, they have less opportunity to commit crime, as well as less access to victims in public. There are a number of punishments for every crime, however in many cases prison proves to be the most effective in order to deter others from committing the same, or a similar, crime.
Sections 35 and 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1998 allow the Law Officers to apply to the Court of Appeal to review any sentence which may appear to be unduly lenient. A referral to the Court of Appeal must be made within 28 days of the sentence itself, and there is no power to extend this limit.
A judge’s role in cases is to use their specialist knowledge and extended experience with the law to ensure that cases and verdicts are carried out fairly. When deciding on a punishment, the magistrates must take several things into consideration, including the seriousness of the crime, whether the victim was harmed and the amount of blame that can be placed on the offender. They also have to take into account previous convictions, as someone who has committed the same, o...