Written by  Joseph Burke 2014-06-04

The End Of Suspended Sentences

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In sentencing a hierarchy exists with good behavior bonds on one end and imprisonment on the other. Sandwiched between are fines, community corrections orders and suspended sentences of imprisonment. These suspended sentences operate somewhat like the Sword of Damocles to give their subjects a final chance to avoid prison. So long as no jail-able offence is committed during the operational period of the suspended sentence, the term of imprisonment hanging above the subject's head is not activated.

The powers that be have elected to remove this option from the sentencing hierarchy of the Magistrates' Court. It's a political decision, no doubt a last ditch attempt to sway the tough on crime crowd. Come September, a term of imprisonment will actually involve imprisonment. The only way to avoid this outcome for serious offences, aside from winning contested hearings, will be to argue that community corrections orders, or fines, are a more appropriate disposition.

The unfortunate reality of this move to take sentencing options away from Magistrates' is that jail cells will fill with offenders who by rights should not ordinarily be subjected to imprisonment. Gaol has thus far been a sentence of last resort. Something to be considered only when all alternatives are inappropriate. But when the most effective tools are taken away from the judicial toolbox, some incredible injustices are inescapably inevitable.


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