Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court unveils sentencing guidelines for public consultation

PRESS RELEASE — THE rule of law can only be maintained and strengthened by ensuring public confidence in the transparency and consistency of judicial approach. One of the areas of greatest public interest and comment, sometimes uninformed, is sentencing. The Court of Appeal of Trinidad and Tobago, in the case of Aguillera v The State 2015 has sought to guide sentencing courts in the approach they should take. It is intended to achieve consistency of approach, not uniformity of sentencing.

Within the jurisdiction of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), judges, masters and magistrates are required to give reasons for the sentences which they impose. In order to assist them in the process of considering and explaining sentences, Her Ladyship the Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira DBE, LLD, Chief Justice, has set up a Sentencing Advisory Committee (‘SAC’), of which the Chief Justice is President, under the joint-chairmanship of Her Ladyship Madam Justice Gertel Thom, Justice of Appeal, and His Lordship Mr. Justice Iain Morley QC, High Court Judge. Its task is to draft guidelines which will be brought into effect on dates to be appointed following public consultation.

There will be specific steps required to be taken when constructing a sentence, which are set out in soon to be published Rules and Practice Directions. It is intended that the guidelines must be applied unless to do so would be contrary to the interests of justice. The reasoning process for any sentence must be given as well as for any decision not to follow a guideline.

It is not intended that the guidelines will replace the discretion of the individual judge, master or magistrate in determining the appropriate sentence within the applicable range. In the case of some offences, the application of the guidelines may alter sentencing practice. In the case of serious drug offences, it is intended to do so. The Chief Justice intends that structured and well-reasoned sentencing remarks will become normal practice and would encourage their publication. These remarks will build up a bank of authority to assist courts, students of law and the public to better understand the principles and practice of sentencing law.

The ECSC is therefore, inviting legal practitioners, litigants, social workers, mediators, probation officers, the police, correctional services officers and members of the public in the OECS to take part in the sentencing guidelines public consultation.

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