Scots look at high-tech sentencing

JUDGES are being offered computer-aided sentencing in a high-tech project to boost consistency in the courts.

Academics from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, have designed a program to guide the judge towards the 'right' sentence. The package allows the computer operator to review sentences given to defendants for similar offences to that being heard. Designers believe it could reduce discrepancies in sentencing.

Cyrus Tata, research officer at the university's Centre for Computers, Law and Technology, says a feasibility study has been completed. The Scottish Courts Service is now reviewing a plan which could lead to eight Scottish judges in a trial run of the program.

Tata says the system asks questions about the case being heard and produces a graph of sentences given for similar offences. The judge chooses from the range of options.

Senior Scots judge Lord Ross says the system could be invaluable, “but there is no question of the computer dictating to the judge what the sentence has to be”.

A judge's ruling allowed television cameras rare access to the courtroom in Birmingham last month. Judge Malcolm Lee QC threw open the doors of the Birmingham Crown Court to the Press as part of the Institute of Legal Executives' National Law Week open day. The day also showed the variability of the jury system when a defendant

before the court in a mock trial was found guilty of robbery in the morning and then acquitted by a new jury drawn from the visiting public in the afternoon.

Law Society president Charles Elly has officially opened a new ILEX council chamber at its Kempston premises.