Whatever happened to the Cherie Booth sentencing case?

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  • It seems there are two distinct issues in play here:
    1. Whether the sentence itself was affected on religious grounds as suggested by the NSS
    2. Whether it was appropriate for Ms Booth to "take into account" the fact of the defendant's religion at all
    On (1) your earlier piece seems clear enough that it was not, and this is still the point seemingly questioned by the NSS. On (2) there are surely still questions to answer?

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  • The sentence was within the guidelines, but isn't the question whether Ms Booth would have given a non-religious person a harsher sentence (but still within the guidelines)?
    It would help if the OJC gave an explanation for their conclusion- does the fact that the sentence was within the guidelines mean her decision making process is irrelevant, or as you suggest were they merely an admonishment?

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  • What she said was "I am going to suspend this sentence for the period of two years based on the fact you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before."
    If his religion didn't affect the sentence then she was lying.

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  • Well, it's not a particularly unusual offence so what you'd do is look at a large group of people who plead guilty to ABH, split them into non-religious and religious groups, then work out if they receive harsher or lesser sentences and then work out if Cherie Blair is giving the people in the non-religious group that she sentences statistically significantly longer sentences.
    It's a completely reasonable hypothesis and it can totally be verified by looking at the evidence but just sitting and saying "ah, but you don't know if she'd be worse to another person, do you?" puts a very murky spin on it.

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  • She also said ".....and have not been in trouble before" - I feel that the NSS complaint is putting too fine a point on her words. To my mind, she was primarily acknowledging the defendants previously blameless character and also, subtly reminding the defendant that he ought to adhere to the code of good conduct implied in his declared beliefs. It was not an issue for me, but I understand that the NSS is 'duty bound' to 'sniff out' any possible misuse of power in regard to religious belief.

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  • If taking or stating that you are taking into account the defendant's religion in sentencing isn't judicial misconduct then perhaps the definition of judicial misconduct should be changed.

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  • This whole thing misses the point. Nobody is suggested that the sentence wasn't within the guidelines, or that the sentence wasn't appropriate.

    The issue under question was whether (as Cherry Booth's wording seemed to explicitly state) that the sentence was made more lenient than it would otherwise have been because of the defendent's religious leanings.

    If the argument which appears to be being made here is that the only criterion which needs to be met is that the sentence falls within the range prescribed in the sentencing guidelines, then that's not a very high standard to be used. If this line is followed, and (as is implied here) the religious leanings of a defendent can be taken into account in sentencing, then I would argue the sentencing guidelines are wrong. They should explicitly (in my view) state that it should not be.

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  • I think the other point is that as the offender has reportedly come directly from prayer as his mosque before committing the offense his faith didn't seem to be very effective at preventing him from assaulting people, so the remark was incompetent.

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  • This case is very worrying. Would the violent criminal have got even softer treatment if he had been a Roman Catholic (Mrs Blair's religion, apart from money grubbing)?

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  • I wholeheartedly agree with Craig L and Steve Jones.
    Someone's spirtual beliefs (or lack of them) should not affect criminal sentencing. What ever happened to all men are equal before the law??
    Ms Booth's actions, whose reasoning and motivation is made clear by her statements, DO amount to misconduct.

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