Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 21 August 2009

Families of crime victims should not influence sentencing

Cardiff Student Lib Dems (who have a very good blog) have posted today about the release of the Megrahi. It is a well thought through piece that urges Lib Dems not to attack the SNP and try to make political capital out of what was a very difficult decision.

However I want to take issue with something that CSLD say in their post:

Don't get me wrong. When it comes to sentencing, I think families of victims or victims themselves should be involved in the process. However, after the process, the decision must be made according to the law. It cannot (and should not) be held to ransom by the families of the victims

I am afraid I don't agree with the sentiment expressed at the start of this excerpt with the reference to families of victims. There have been moves in the last few years to try and take account of the feelings of families of victims (especially murder victims where the victim themselves is no longer around to be involved themselves) in the sentencing of criminals.

The problem I have with this is that it violates the principle that all are treated equally. Let's imagine two identical situations where somebody has been randomly stabbed to death in the street late at night in a dark alleyway. In case A let's say that the victim had a wife, two young children, grieving parents and grandparents as well as lots of brothers, sisters and friends. In case B let's say that the victim was a loner who has no close family or friends. The same crime has been perptrated but victim A would doubtless have lots of people wishing to discuss how the crime had affected them and wishing their feelings to be taken into account during sentencing. Victim B would have nobody to do this.

Would it then be fair to allow this to result in different sentences for the two victims? I do not think so. They are both abhorrent crimes but for me there is no case for treating them any differently. It might sound harsh to say this but this is surely one of the basic tenets of our system of justice. This is why Lady Justice who stands on top of the Old Bailey is blindfolded. She symbolises this very important precept.

It is the sort of thing that gets easy applause when politicians call for the views of the victims of families to be taken into account but I think it is a dangerous road to go down.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your premise entirely Mark.

Unknown said...

Spot on, Mark.

However, I do think that victims of crime should be better supported to come to terms with whatever has happened to them. There is also a place for some sort of engagement between offender and victim so that the offender can understand the effects of their actions as part of a rehabilitiation process.

But when it comes to being part of the judicial process, then that has to be a definite no.

Kalvis Jansons said...

I agree!

Alex said...

I also agree!

However, isn't there some part of Lib Dem policy that involves this concept?