Monday, April 18, 2005

Throw away the Key

The always-readable Ambulanceman's blog
has asked me directly about 'automatic maximum sentences' for assaults on emergency service personnel.

Now nobody could take these kind of attacks more seriously than I do. Our guidelines tell us that assaults on public servants are especially serious, and we always sentence near the top of the range. Where I must disagree with Reynolds is with the idea of any kind of automatic sentence. Just as he knows that no two patients or emergencies are ever alike, no two cases are alike either. Judges and magistrates use their training, their experience, and their judgement to place each offence at the right point on the scale. Deterrence is of limited value - after all the drunk or drugged oaf who kicks off in A & E has no thought for the consequences, he is just out of control.

We are all practitioners in a system that deals with the ultimate variable - the human being. That requires humans to deal with it, not automated justice, because that has nothing just about it.

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