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Explain the ranges of sentences available to the judge or magistrate.

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Introduction

Law essay on Sentencing Explain the ranges of sentences available to the judge or magistrate. Sentencing is a process by which offenders are brought to justice in order to uphold the law. Sentencing, in criminal law is punishment that a court orders, imposed on a person convicted of criminal activity primarily with the objective to modify their behaviour and to get them to live inside the parameters of their society. Sentences typically consist of three categories, custodial, community sentences and fines. Magistrates and Judges are those who decide on an appropriate sentence for the offender. A magistrate can impose a sentence of up to 6 months imprisonment for one offence, and 12 for two offences, and up to �5,0000 fines. A Judge in the Crown Court however, has no such limits; they can compel up to life imprisonment and there is no maximum figure for fines. However, there are still restrictions. Each crime has for that type of offence set by parliament. For example, the crime of theft has a fixed maximum of seven years imprisonment. For some types of sentencing a judge can have complete discretion over, for instance, rape and manslaughter. The offender may be sent to prison for life, or given a shorter prison sentence. Murder is an exception, which carries a mandatory life sentence. In the British legal system there are three stages of sentencing. Firstly Parliament will set out the maximum or minimum for each offence, (this is the job of the Home Secretary, who is responsible for Law and order). Then the trial judge determines the appropriate sentence for the individual offenders convicted of a particular crime. Next the court of appeal may review the sentence imposed by the trial judge. Politicians can legislate to determine the range of sentencing available to the courts but it is the magistrate in the Magistrates Court or the Judge in the Crown Court who will actually decide upon the sentence in a particular case. ...read more.

Middle

The idea of educative deterrence is that punishment of criminals builds up the habit of not breaking the law in society. For example, every time someone is punished for theft the public morality that theft is wrong is strengthened and the habit of not stealing is reinforced. The achievement of inhibitions and habits is of greater value than mere deterrence. The third main theory of punishment is the theory of incapacitation. In the case of Sargent , Lawton L.J. acknowledged "that there are some offenders for whom neither deterrence nor rehabilitation works. They will go on committing crimes as long as they are able to do so. In those cases the only protection which the public has is that such persons should be locked up for a long period." The aim of protective sentencing is to render the offender incapable of committing more crimes. Thus, not only can it be seen as punishing the offender for past crimes, but it seeks to punish for crimes yet to be committed. In the Floud Report on Dangerous Offenders the problem of punishing people for what they are predicted to do is assessed by reference to the risk of grave harm to potential victims which must be balanced against the grave harm of unnecessary protective sentences. More recently, attempts have been made to locate incapacitative sentencing within a retributive framework. Thus, the principle of proportionality can set a ceiling beyond which punishment is impermissible. Few would doubt that there are a number of dangerous offenders for whom incapacitation may be a serious option. In fact there is much public support for cases where society needs protection. However, the lack of proportionality inherent in protective sentencing remains problematic. Therefore, the only way forward is to defend protective sentencing on desert grounds. The final theory is to punish with the aim of reforming or rehabilitating the offender. This theory is one of the most ambitious developments in penal theory. ...read more.

Conclusion

These are factors which the Judge or Magistrate will consider when assessing the level of seriousness of an offence and what sentence to give him\her. Totality principle Section 28(2)(b) of the CJA 1991 allows a Judge or Magistrate to mitigate a sentence by taking into account the whole of the offending behaviour for multiple offences and then to impose and then impose sentences which reflect this totality rather than unrealistic sentences. With these circumstances the right approach is to select one or two offences for the sentences to be imposed and to deal with the remaining offences by the use of discharges or 'no separate penalty'. What matters is that the total is correct. Discount for Guilty Plea Section 28 of the CJA and Public Order Act 1994 puts into statutory form the basic principle that an offender who has remorse for his/her crime is entitled to be treated more leniently than one who has not. Ancillary arguments such as the avoidance of vulnerable witnesses having to give evidence or the saving of Court time are important, but not the real issue. The Judge or Magistrate will give a judgement as to whether the defendant should get discount. If the offender pleas guilty then that is a sign of remorse in itself as every defendant has the right to compel the prosecution to prove the case against him. Therefore, unless there is a strong argument with reason for why a defendant should not, he who pleads guilty is entitled to have a discount against the sentence which the Judge or Magistrate has given. If a defendant has plead not guilty but is initially found guilty does not get an increased sentence but will receive the sentence justified by the seriousness of the offence and after personal factors have be taken into account. If an offender has not responded to previous conviction then it is deemed more serious. Family considerations The hardship to be inflicted on an offender's family as a result of the offender's sentence may be a mitigating factor in exceptional cases. ...read more.

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