The Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss will today announce a radical new scheme designed to ensure that criminal sentencing is tougher and more effective. The move is rumoured to be the brainchild of Tory MP Philip Davies, who has previously called for measures to ensure that judicial leniency is stamped out. It will be implemented through an amendment to the Prisons & Courts Bill, which is currently under consideration in Parliament.
Mr Davies welcomed the proposals, saying
"It should be clear to many that where a judge consistently allows offenders to avoid prison and those offenders go on to make others suffer as a result of their continuing crime spree, there should be accountability for the judge...And there should really be consequences for that judge as well. In particular, where they don't hand down custodial sentences which would be perfectly justifiable and possibly even expected, and particularly when the offender goes on to reoffend."
Under the so-called Cell-based judicial Rehabilitation Administrative Penalty scheme, judges who deliver sentences which are later increased via the existing unduly lenient sentencing procedures, will be required to serve a sentence themselves equivalent to the difference between the original and the enhanced sentence - although for judges of good character this will be suspended in the first instance. Judges who fail repeatedly to adhere to the sentencing guidelines will also feel the impact upon retirement. Draft secondary legislation seen by this site states that "the daily cost of judicial accommodation and subsistence during periods of incentivisation will be deducted pound for pound from the capital value of the offender's judicial pension fund".
The scheme will be rolled out in parallel with the digitalisation of prisons and courts and a pilot of late night court sittings. A spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice said that
"the rollout of digital justice will mean that judges will be able to continue carrying out their judicial functions whilst detained, their cells operating as pop up courts. It is important that all categories of prisoners are gainfully employed whilst incarcerated, in order that disruption can be minimised and rehabilitation maximised and this will both enhance judicial efficiency and assist with the rehabilitation of other offenders through the modelling of good behaviour and respect for the rule of law."
Asked whether or not this scheme had negative implications for the independence of the judiciary or the justice system more widely, a spokesperson said that judges would be able to access the support of McKenzie friends to assist in the preparation of their defences, and with getting the videolink to work.
Judges have privately condemned the scheme, which they complain would deprive them of their right to a private judicial privy. However, they may be buoyed by news that the digital justice reforms do not look likely to render them redundant just yet, as confirmed by lawbot entrepreneur and HMCTS consultant Joshua Browder :
“The law involves a lot of compassion. For example, [when deciding] whether someone should be granted bail. I think it is difficult for a bot to replace that. The legal system requires humans; technology isn’t allowed to argue in court.”
Asked about possible plans to replace judges with judgebots, a Ministry of Justice spokesbot said
"The Ministry remain committed to the utilisation of human resources, and are piloting a range of measures designed to maximise the efficiency of humanoid analogue forms of decision making. For example, drawing from studies showing that judges who have too much sleep tend to sentence more leniently*, we are experimenting with late night court opening as a way of nudging our judicial resource towards more appropriate sentencing practices."
*see one such study here.
According to The Gazette, late night court opening is being piloted in
- Newcastle and Blackfriars Crown court
- Sheffield and Highbury Corner magistrates’ court
- Brentford County Court and Manchester Civil Justice Centre
The Criminal Bar Association has raised concerns that the pilot scheme is likely to create a sentencing postcode lottery.
...Yes, it is April 1st. And most of this is untrue (not all of it though!).
Pics, Open Govt Licence from gov.uk website.