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UK judges reject proposed sentencing guidelines

[JURIST] British judges have rejected a UK government proposal that government ministers say would simplify sentencing and increase judicial discretion in dealing with serious criminals, calling it a "kneejerk reaction" to an earlier sentencing scandal [JURIST report] over the possibility of parole within six years for a sex offender convicted in June. The proposal [JURIST report], entitled Making Sentencing Clearer [PDF text], was prepared by the Home Office and Department of Constitutional Affairs [official websites] in November. In a rare public pronouncement, Home Secretary John Reid [official profile] had called the original sentence for Craig Sweeney "unduly lenient."

The sixteen proposals included automatic fines rather than community service punishment for certain offenses, measures to prevent serious offenders from being released early, and alternatives to short, custodial sentences. Fourteen of the proposals were rejected by the 600-member Council of Her Majesty's Circuit Court Judges. The Council said, "There is the perception of 'change for the sake of change' in much current policy. This often appears to be kneejerk reaction to particular situations. It gives the impression of crisis management. Frequently, no thought is given to the longer-term consequences of the proposals." The Times of London has more. The South Wales Echo has additional coverage.

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