Mandatory sentencing


There is a widely held belief that the imposition of a mandatory sentence for a second or third offence will have a significant deterrent effect on that individual and will send a message to potential offenders. Advocates argue that it will bring consistency in sentencing and appease public concern about crime and punishment. This proposition has been debated vigorously in the community, and has been the subject of numerous research papers.

This paper examines the evidence for and against mandatory sentencing and finds that although mandatory sentencing may result in some reduction in crime, it questions whether the costs involved justify the small decrease that may be achieved.

Efforts made to turn potential offenders into good citizens may be more productive in earlier stages of their development than seeking to deter criminal behaviour through more rigid sentencing policies. Money spent on early intervention programs, education, and better environmental and product design to reduce opportunities for criminal activity, may be a far more effective way of reducing crime.

This paper argues that judges who are publicly accountable for their decisions may be in a better position to ensure that justice is served through a greater understanding of the context of the offence than legislation introducing mandatory sentencing which cannot make allowances for the circumstances associated with the crime in question.