June 12, 2006

Reid attacks 'too lenient' sentence

According to the BBC, John Reid has critised the judgement on a man convicted of sexually assaulting a 6–year–old girl as 'too lenient'.

The man in question recieved life inprisonment, but with the possibility of release in 5 years.

I'm not going to say much here, because I've just finished my exams today, and I'm a bit worse for wear shall we say…

I'll just propose a question. With the separation between the legislator and the judicuary so important in the UK constitutional arrangment, does this signal a step too far by a politician, or is this indeed within John Reid's responsibilities (ie to question the sentencing of independant judges)?


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  1. I think the recent rash of cases like this are unhelpful. The man in this case is unlikely to be free after 5 years. These short minimums are following the legal rules (which are there for a reason) but don't really reflect the length a person will actually spend in prison in a lot of cases. When politicians criticise this they make the judiciary look bad unnecessarily.

    12 Jun 2006, 19:59

  2. While you want separation of powers, you also want the freedom for each part of the state to be able to criticise the other two parts. Checks and balances etc.

    When it comes to length of sentences, I'm not certain who should make the decisions. I'm inclined towards letting politicians setting minimums and maximums (they do, after all, supposedly represent the public), but then allow judges to give whatever sentence they like in individual cases. It's a bit dangerous to start politicising individuals.

    12 Jun 2006, 20:38

  3. James

    The silly man is going to scupper any chance of actually increasing the sentence if he carries on like this, as I've written about on my new blog (please visit and leave comments as vociferous and biting as you see fit!) Reid is either very badly advised or monstrously pig–headed. I suspect both.

    13 Jun 2006, 15:14

  4. "Being hacked to death is too good for [him]"

    I think is a good quote there…

    13 Jun 2006, 19:12

  5. James

    The point is that Reid is entitled to make general comments about sentencing but not interfere in particular cases, as he tried to do here by agitating for an appeal by the Attorney–General. That would be political interference in the judicial process. It is one of the cornerstones of our constitution that that does not happen. Britain is one of the very few nations on earth where the executive cannot get involved in an individual court case. Someone needs to tell Reid, and soon.

    Already the Blair government has damaged that precious principle by appointing Goldsmith as the A–G. Always before a member of the Commons would be appointed, so as to be available for scrutiny by the House of Commons. Goldsmith is a member of the Lords. He also ducked and dived over prosecuting under the Hunting Act, plainly for political purposes (which should have had him sacked). Now at last he seems to have found his feet and is thankfully telling Reid where to get off. But just as one Blair government member learns about the constitution, another forgets …

    14 Jun 2006, 16:25

  6. James

    The point is that Reid is entitled to make general comments about sentencing but not interfere in particular cases, as he tried to do here by agitating for an appeal by the Attorney–General. That would be political interference in the judicial process. It is one of the cornerstones of our constitution that that does not happen. Britain is one of the very few nations on earth where the executive cannot get involved in an individual court case. Someone needs to tell Reid, and soon.

    Already the Blair government has damaged that precious principle by appointing Goldsmith as the A–G. Always before a member of the Commons would be appointed, so as to be available for scrutiny by the House of Commons. Goldsmith is a member of the Lords. He also ducked and dived over prosecuting under the Hunting Act, plainly for political purposes (which should have had him sacked). Now at last he seems to have found his feet and is thankfully telling Reid where to get off. But just as one Blair government member learns about the constitution, another forgets …

    14 Jun 2006, 16:25


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