CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Feb 21, CMC – The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) is urging various stakeholders, including legal practitioners, litigants, social workers, mediators, probation officers as well as the police to participate in a public consultation on sentencing guidelines for the courts in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
“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 said in a statement
It said within its jurisdiction, judges, masters and magistrates are required to give reasons for the sentences which they impose and to assist in the process of considering and explaining sentences, Chief Justice Dame Janice M. Pereira has set up a Sentencing Advisory Committee.
The Committee, which also includes Madam Justice Gertel Thom, Justice of Appeal; and Hgh Court judge, Justice Iain Morley QC, is tasked with drafting the 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 will be set out in the 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,” the ECSC said.
It said that 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.”
The ECSC said the public should complete the form on its website with the deadline for submission of feedback being March 15.