Several newspapers recently pondered why ‘one woman is jailed after stealing just £3,000 but another who took £22,000 walks free.”
The story was sparked by a tale of two defendants who appeared at the same court centre, on the same day, but faced different judges.
The papers concluded that one was unlucky to have been sentenced by a Judge renowned for being tough on sentence.
Most lawyers know this scenario only too well and given that there is a large margin of appreciation when it comes to sentencing, there may be nothing that can be done about it.
There are a number of scenarios that we can consider when it comes to sentencing.
The sentences were, in fact, appropriate in both cases
It must be remembered that cases which look similar at first blush may, in fact, be greatly different, particularly when a defendant’s offending history is taken into account.
There are lots of relevant factors that must be taken into account before deciding on the most appropriate sentence to pass in any individual case.
The lenient sentence
In some cases, a great result at sentence may be short-lived as in some instances the Attorney General can consider referring the sentence to the Court of Appeal if it is thought to have been ‘unduly lenient’.
The harsh sentence
If a sentence is either wrong in principle or manifestly excessive, the defendant can apply to appeal that sentence. We will always promptly advice our clients when this scenario arises.
Disparity in sentencing
The court of appeal is not interested in what another defendant before a different court may have received. Sentences must be assessed on their merits, so another person’s good result will not translate into a reduction for a person not treated leniently.
Any disparity in sentencing is, however, a more critical consideration when several defendants are sentenced in the same case.
Slightly more complex issues arise in this scenario, and we will always carefully assess the situation and advise accordingly.
Ultimately, sentencing guidelines are not tramlines, and absolute fairness in sentencing is not always achieved; but there are nonetheless important protections to ensure that judges do not go beyond a proper exercise of discretion.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, then get in touch with Hashmita Patel or Stephanie Brownlees on 01902 275 042 and let us help. We can advise on all aspects of your case.