The Appeal of Proportionate Sentencing Lies In Its Grounding - The Idea Of Fairness.
The principle of proportionality refers to the notion that a criminal should receive punishment, which reflects the severity of the crime committed. The appeal - to victims and the public alike-of proportionate sentencing, has its basis in the idea that a crime should be punished, and the offender made to accept punishment, that is proportionate to the crime committed-"just deserts". However proportionality also allows that the offender be dealt with as fairly and justly as possible.
The High Court has repeatedly stressed the central role of proportionality in the sentencing of offenders. Due to the fact that no two criminal cases are exactly the same, and given the individual nature of each offender, it is necessary to look at the surrounding circumstances of each case. Factors that are taken into account are numerous including the mental history of the offender and evidence of prior convictions. Hosts of other mitigating factors also play a central role. In determining a proportionate and fair sentence, a judge must have in mind what his main aim of sentencing will be, in order to determine a proportionate sentence. For the sentence to be fair, it must fit the crime. For example it would not be fair or just, if an individual who had no prior convictions, were charged with shoplifting, and a prison sentence imposed.
The concept of proportionality is to avoid injustice within the courts. The idea of proportionate sentencing is fair because it attempts to deal with the criminal in a just manner. This is important because, as distasteful as it may sound, the criminal still has rights as a human being. Whilst it is the norm for judges to abide by proportionate sentencing, it is also the right of the judge to override, where appropriate, the current maximum sentence for a particular crime. This is exemplified in the case of Veen v The Queen where a repeatedly violent offender appealed against the severity of a life sentence to have the term reduced. After subsequent offences he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Given the offenders history of violence, it was felt by the sentencing Judge that Veen posed a grave danger to society due to his mental ability to "snap".
One of the main points of proportionate sentencing is baring in mind the community safety, which is an important consideration of the sentencing judge. In relation to Veen v The Queen, a life sentence was seen as proportionate, given the severity of the crime and the prior convictions, whereas when the offender was previously given a sentence of life, it was deemed to be inappropriate. This is an example where conflicts arise regarding the appropriate methodology to be adopted by the judges, in ascertaining what is a proportionate sentence.
In Conclusion, it is true that proportionate sentencing has its grounds in fairness. As Australia is a very humane society the idea of justice even for criminals will hopefully, always prevail. Without the idea of proportionate sentencing Judges will have no benchmarks by which to serve equal and fair sentences thus making sentencing an even more tedious and cumbersome task.
Written By Tammy Cohen