Saturday, 21 February 2009

Lightweight Soft Cell

In an amazingly lightweight analysis of recent SA crime statistics Family First  MP Dennis Hood "blasts"the Government because as an Advertiser article puts it:
NOT a single rapist, child pornographer or killer driver received a maximum sentence in South Australia last financial year

If you were to look at this as glass "hall full" rather than "half empty" then perhaps we should give thanks for this. If we assume that the court system works (not that it is perfect but that it works) then we recognise that a "maximum" sentence should not be the "usual" sentence.
The court system does not simply rubber stamp verdicts, but rather expects to take circumstances into account. 
I am always deeply cautious when there is an outcry against particular sentencing, few of us are in the court to hear the circumstances. Newspapers and television necessarily abbreviate the reporting and habitually miss the complex detail out. Circumstances are often and inevitably complex and often "boring" detail.
So outcry is often based on an incomplete reading of the evidence...hardly justice. The trouble is (and the cause of outcry) that we disagree about how circumstances should be weighted.
Isn't that why we have judges and magistrates? And why in the free world we do not allow (by and large) politicians to imprison people.


Anonymous said...

you obviously havent had a son or daughter killed by a drunk and speeding driver!

stephen clark said...

Thank goodness your observation is true. I did have friends who lost two children when their father rolled the car he was driving. And one of my schoolmates died as a passenger when his drunken mate crashed the car he was driving.
It's not clear to me (and this my point) who should be punished and to what degree.
I am thankful that in our system there is an attempt at objectivity so that we do not just throw the book at people out of revenge or passion.
As flawed as our system is; we have a system that takes circumstances into account, and doesn't foolishly think that one punishment can and/or should fit all

Justin Passing said...

Perhaps this would better have been said in the first place.

stephen clark said...

wll I thought that was relly the point of the original post, but I am glad to have clarified it for you