Sentencing guidelines to take effect from October 1st

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By Latrishka Thomas

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) yesterday unveiled sentencing guidelines for drug offences, two offences of deception and two sexual offences that will all take effect from October 1st 2019.

In the presence of many legal practitioners, Her Ladyship Madam Justice Gertel Thom declared that after two years of toiling, the Sentencing Advisory Committee (SAC) is laying out guidelines for five areas.

“While the court celebrated its 50th anniversary, the sentencing guidelines established by Her Ladyship the Chief Justice held its inaugural meeting. Now two years later, after a very engaged process involving all stakeholders, the Sentencing Guidelines Committee has completed sentencing guidelines in relation to the offences of theft, robbery, rape, unlawful sexual intercourse and drug offences,” she said.

The ECSC sentencing guidelines were created by Her Ladyship the Honourable Dame Janice Pereira, Chief Justice of the ECSC, who acted as President of the SAC, under joint-chairmanship of Her Ladyship Madam Justice Gertel Thom, Justice of Appeal, and His Lordship Mr. Justice Iain Morley, High Court Judge.

In her feature address, Chief Justice Pereira emphasised that the guidelines are not meant to be rigid.

She said: “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.”

Moreover, she explained, the guidelines are not intended to achieve uniformity in sentences, but are merely a guide to a more uniformed approach to sentencing practice and are intended to ensure greater consistency in sentences passed, promote greater transparency, and promote greater public confidence in the administration of criminal justice.

She however said that if a sentencing officer diverts from the guidelines, he or she must provide a clear reason why.

“But what it requires a sentencing officer to do, if it is that they consider that they ought to deviate from that guideline, they must provide clear reasons for departing from those guidelines when passing the sentence,” the Chief Justice added.

Meanwhile, High Court Justice Ian Morley said the Eastern Caribbean can expect more sentencing guidelines to come on stream next Easter.

“There is further work to do. The sentencing guidelines will be under constant review and adaptation, and for Easter we hope to have added up to 10 further sentencing guidelines on murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, grievous bodily harm with and without intent, actual bodily harm, burglary, fraud, corruption, incest and indecent assault and serious indecency,” Morley said.

He also detailed that the constructing of this batch of guidelines began in July 2017 during the Annual Judicial Conference.

He said the committee has since met in January 2018 in Barbados, June 2018 in Antigua, July 2018 in St. Lucia, February 2019 in St. Lucia, and last week in Barbados, to finalise the entire process. He added that public consultations were conducted in March 2019.

The guidelines will apply to the countries where the ECSC is the supreme court.

The ECSC is the superior court of record for the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), including six Independent States: Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and three British Overseas Territories – Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and Montserrat. The Court has unlimited jurisdiction in each Member State and Territory.

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