BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – THE Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has launched its new guidelines for sentencing for five areas of offenses that would unify sentencing in the OECS member states.
The new guidelines will come into effect on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 and will be used for five offenses including Rape, Drug and Theft.
Providing the keynote address at the launch in Antigua and Barbuda, Chief Justice Madam Dame Janice Pereira explained that presentation of the guidelines is the culmination of extensive work by the court aimed at promoting and streamlining the court’s approach to sentencing across its nine-member jurisdiction.
The CJ noted that the plan was to devise a “consistent and uniformed approach to sentencing”, which is informed and provide clarity to the victims, offenders and the public at large.
“Sentencing of an offender is an extremely serious matter and an awesome responsibility on the shoulders of any judicial officer in seeking to ensure that the sentence he or she passes is fair and just, having regard to the facts and circumstances of each case and in accordance with law.”
Against that backdrop, the Chief Justice emphasised that it is of utmost importance that the public maintain confidence “in the administration of justice”.
According to the CJ, one way of doing such in the criminal justice system is by implementing measures that demonstrates “consistency of approach and providing clear reasons for sentences passed on offenders”.
She reiterated that it would not replace any measure, “Now I want to make clear that the guidelines are not intended and do not replace the exercise of a sentencing officer’s discretion.
“Rather, what is required and what is expected is that sentences will follow the guidelines published for an offence, unless to do so would not be in the interest of justice”.
Justice of Appeal, Her Ladyship Gertel Thom underscored the importance of proportional sentencing, something the new guidelines will seek to undertake.
“Courts are required to apply the principles of proportionality when sentencing convicted persons…it must be a fit sentence proportionate to the seriousness of the offense. Only if this is so can the public be satisfied that the offender deserves the punishment he received and feel confident in the fairness and rationality of the criminal justice system.”
She added that the guidelines would provide consistency in sentences across the board.
President of the Bar Association Thaddeus M. Antoine said the new guidelines would provide the public with a better understanding of why a criminal offender received the sentence handed down.
“It brings about some equality of justice,” he added.
Additional guidelines will be coming on stream for other offenses.