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Sentencing in criminal matters is intricate and difficult.
Despite what some commentators may say, very fine balances have to be made, and many, many considerations must be taken into account.
In recent years, parliaments, state, territory and federal, have produced new, separate sentencing Acts of great complexity.
One recent case in the ACT Magistrates Court illustrates just how hard it can be to get the right outcome at sentence.
The case involved seven charges: one of taking part in the manufacture of a firearm, one of possessing a prohibited firearm while not authorised, one of possessing ammunition, two of failing to appear at court and two of minor theft.
All charges carried their own proscribed penalties.
Then consider questions of accumulation and concurrence as some of the offences arose from the same factual matrix.
But this case added even more layers: the defendant, who pleaded guilty, had helped manufacture a gun with which his friend had been killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. That added other considerations in relation to the outcome of the offending as opposed to the intent of the offender.
At the time of the offending, the offender was on Good Behaviour Orders, one of them involving a suspended jail sentence, – adding a further, very serious, layer of complexity to the sentencing exercise.
All of this comes on top of the statutory considerations that every magistrate and judge has to go through.
There are seven principles of sentencing that must be adhered to in the Crimes (Sentencing) Act 2005.
The Act specifies 27 “relevant considerations” that should be looked at as well as 2 “irrelevant considerations” that have to be avoided.
There are often questions of parity and totality. Particular considerations are mandated about prison sentences, and how they can and should be served.
And of course, there are the comparable cases, the judge-made law that can be critical to striking the right sentence.
When people think they will look after their court matters themselves, they would do well to stop and consider some of the above points – and whether it might just be worth consulting a criminal-law specialist.
The team at Armstrong Legal deal only in criminal and traffic law, and conduct sentencing matters on a daily basis.
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