The Judiciary has launched Sentencing Guidelines for Judges of the Parish Courts.
The guidelines which were launched today takes effect immediately.
The public is expected to have a clearer indication of what a possible sentence could be based on the nature of an offence following with the new guidelines that have been made public.
The new guidelines follow several criticisms of sentences handed down in the past.
The Judiciary hopes the guidelines will remove misconceptions.
Nora-Gaye Banton reports
The guidelines were launched at the National Public Education Day Symposium staged at the Kingston and St. Andrew Parish Court’s Criminal Division in Half Way Tree on Thursday.
The Judiciary in its other reasons for launching the Guidelines say this will assist in greater consistency in the punishment of persons convicted of crimes.
It also says the guidelines are geared towards streamlining the sentencing process across those courts and creating a greater sense of uniformity in the possible sentences to be meted out to offenders who have been found guilty before the courts.
The Judiciary taking note of public discourse on sentences handed down in the nation’s courts in the past said criticisms have been levelled against the Judiciary in relation to sentences handed down to persons who’ve been found guilty.
The Judiciary says it’s hoping that the sentencing guidelines will result in a greater understanding of the sentencing process and removing misconceptions.
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes says understandably, members of the public take and ought to take an interest in how this important societal function is carried out by judges.
He says it’s therefore necessary for judges to indicate how and why a particular sentence was passed.
Chief Justice Sykes says the necessity to give reasons contributes to the rule of law.
He says the Judiciary is pleased to have taken this very bold and important step towards demystifying the process judges go through when an accused person is to be sentenced and the sentences which the law permits them to apply.
Sykes says the punishment should be appropriate for the crime, the defendant, and circumstances.
He also says there’s nothing wrong with departing from the guidelines where the judge sees fit, but he says departures should be clearly explained.
At the same time, Chief Justice Sykes asserted that there’s a current imbalance in the approach to sentencing.
He says it appears too preoccupied with rights of the defendant and insufficiently concerned about the impact of the crime on the victim.
But he was quick to point out that nonetheless variations are likely to occur with sentencing because sentences are determined by mitigating and aggravating circumstances that are unique to every case.
He says these guidelines are just that – guidelines.
A copy of the sentencing guidelines is available and accessible on the Parish Courts website – parishcourt.gov.jm.
Opposition Spokesperson on Information and Justice, Senator Donna Scott- Mottley, is welcoming the launch of sentencing guidelines for Judges of the Parish Courts.
The guidelines were launched today by the judiciary and take effect immediately.
Senator Mottley told our news centre the guidelines will allow a sense of uniformity in sentencing across all parish courts.
However, she noted that there’ll be times when a judge may have to depart from the guidelines because of the circumstances of a case.
Senator Donna Scott- Mottley, Opposition Spokesperson on Information and Justice.
Suzell Wray contributed to this report.