Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An end to re-sentencing

There's been a major upset to the prison system today, with the Court of Appeal ruling [PDF] that parole boards can not consider deterence when determining whether to grant parole or home detention. Parole boards have been doing this for years, effectively re-sentencing prisoners based on public pressure and their assessment of how much punishment they deserved. But now, the game is up. The ruling could affect hundreds of prisoners whose decisions had been made illegally, and result in their being granted parole, or being able to sue for damages for being imprisoned for too long and in contravention of the law. And this would be entirely justified - the government (through its agents, the parole board) have been making decisions illegally, which has almost certainly resulted in people serving more time in prison than they were required to. If that is not worthy of financial compensation, I am not sure what is.

The worry is that the Prisoners and Victims Claims Act 2005 could apply here. Such claims certainly meet the first criteria for being a "specified claim" under the Act - concerning "an act or omission by or on behalf of the Crown" which affects the claimant "as a person under control or supervision". It would seem to depend then on whether they are brought as BORA cases alleging a breach of the right to liberty, or on some other basis.

Wrongful imprisonment is a clear injustice, regardless of who it happens to,and if the Prisoners and Victims Claims Act prevents compensation in such cases, then the law is fundamentally broken.


deterrence shouldn't generally be effected by public pressure except possibly in a negative sense. The fact that there is public pressure implies that there is less requirement to deter because the public already doesn't want to do it.

deterrence is required most of all in cases like speeding where large numbers of people think its "ok".

The idea that not granting parole would deter the person who did it is also a bit dubious - because who really considered the statistical chance of parole just before committing a crime?

Besides if you have rehabilitation (and thus early parole) what is the point in deterance?

Posted by Genius : 8/30/2006 09:16:00 PM

Genius: the public pressure came from the hang 'em high brigade, who raise a public stink whenever someone comes up for parole. But its quite clear that they're not so much interested in deterence as revenge.

But regardless, deterence is the prerogative of the sentencing judge - not of the parole board.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/30/2006 11:51:00 PM

Revenge? Maybe some are interested in that but I would say the majority of people don't want the violent criminals to get early parole, say Louisa Damodran's killer who was refused parole in 2003. Keeping him in jail isn't a matter of revenge, but a matter of keeping him from reoffending.

Posted by Muerk : 8/31/2006 11:51:00 AM