The Aim of the Criminal Law is Not Merely to Punish Offenders by Imposing a Custodial Sentence
In the world that we live in, law is very important, as it is a set of rules that dictates our society's conduct towards politics, economy and society. Certain institutions such as the Police, Courts and Prisons impose these rules. As Sir John Salmond would describe it as 'The Body of principles recognized and applied by the state in the administration of justice.' 1 Each country has their set of rules in a unique system, and the UK reflects that perfectly. Scotland has a different system comparing to the one present in England and Wales, which abides by the English Legal System. If an individual does not comply to it, he/she can face some of the criminal justice sentences, the most known one as a punishment, prison, but not only and sometimes not the best choice. That is why throughout the years England and Wales have developed their Criminal Justice sentences in order to prevent crime and rehabilitate its offenders.
In England and Wales, Criminal Law or penal law comes under the Public Law (concerning the state and government), and it focuses on the crimes committed against an individual and society, in which is a crime against the state. Punishments are given for its offences; always taking in consideration that what is a crime today may not be a crime tomorrow. Criminal law it is always changing and it is imperative that this continues as society itself suffers constant change. An example of this can be the Suicide offence. It used to be a criminal offence to attempt suicide until it changed in the 1960's where a modern reform, The Suicide Act 1961, dictated that those who attempted suicide would not be prosecuted and it is only a criminal offence if an individual assists another to commit suicide.2 The criminal justice system has to manage between punishing the guilty and most important, protect the innocent. Thus, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant is guilty of committing maliciously a criminal offence according to the actus rea, latin for guilty act, which means that the defendant actually did it, alongside with the mens rea, latin for guilty mind, which proves that they had the intention of doing it. Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea—“the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty.”3 Therefore, a person suffering from a mental illness is most of the times not guilty in the terms of having a guilty mind as their state of mind and their capability to think straight is dominated by their illness. And so, the Magistrates have to conduct these cases very consciously and decide if the case is going forward in court. Moving on, once a person is found guilty, the judge can then sentence the offender. In Criminal Law, their aims, according to The Criminal Justice Act 2003, the purposes of sentencing is, not only to punish offenders but also to reduce crime, reform and rehabilitate offenders, protect the public and the reparation by offenders to their victims. Act reformed with the help of Halliday's report published in 20014. Hence, the criminal law has not only the custodial sentences but also other alternative sentences such as the community sentences, fines and miscellaneous sentences.
In order for an individual to realize that he/she has made a mistake, a crime on the eyes of the law, punishment plays a big part on the criminal law. However, this is not always the right solution and that is why, over the years, the English Legal System has changed gradually so that he finds the appropriate alternative for each one. Punishments should be appropriated for the crime committed. However, not always the right sentence goes to the right offender. Society nowadays is still very bias, and as an example, someone without a job, a sable home, is more likely to get a custodial sentence, even though the crime committed may not be entirely a prison sentence. The effectiveness of...
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Elliot, C, Quinn, F, 2012. English Legal System
Heller, K, 2009. The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology. 2nd ed. U.S.A: Northwestern University, School of Law
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