Legal Magazine

Judges and Bloggers of One Mind

Posted on the 27 May 2011 by Seabee
Many of us have discussed on our blogs for years the sentences handed down for public indecency offences. While we accept that different cultures have different sensibilities it's hard to understand how an offence such as an alleged rude hand gesture can result in far more severe punishment than a real crime such as robbery.
A very interesting report appeared in The National yesterday including comments from several judges about the sentences they often hand down for people found guilty of indecency.
"Public decency laws need to be reformed so that punishments can more accurately reflect the severity of the offence, several judges have said."

I've questioned in various posts on the subject whether the courts had any discretion in the sentences they hand down, or whether they are mandatory. The judges quoted in the report have answered that.
"While sentencing guidelines for more serious crimes allow judges discretion in weighing the facts of a particular case, guidelines for minor crimes concerning public decency often force them into overly harsh sentences."
"An expatriate who has committed an offence such as raising his hand in a bad gesture should be punished, but not by destroying his chances of returning to this country to make a living," one lower court judge said. More serious crimes such as theft were not punished by deportation, he pointed out."

The courts have taken some stick, especially in the overseas press, over their draconian sentencing but it seems they have little room for discretion.
In fact judges, or at least some of them, seem to be of the same opinion as us.
It's a fascinating insight into the legal system here in The National.

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