Wed | Apr 24, 2019

With plea bargaining, even mercy has limits

Published:Friday | September 7, 2018 | 12:00 AM


Plea bargaining, with reduced sentences (for even heinous crimes), was introduced to ensure speedier resolution of court cases and to clear the huge backlog overburdening the judiciary.

With more than 1,000 homicides annually and many murder trials lasting five years on average, further compounding this backlog, it's a critical challenge facing the judiciary.

Under the new plea-bargaining legislation, the starting point of sentencing is 15 years for manslaughter. But having pleaded guilty in court, he becomes eligible for a 20 percent discount in sentencing, making it twelve years.

With good representation from his attorney, pleading for leniency on the grounds that he showed remorse, cooperated fully and pleaded guilty and especially if it's a first conviction, he may on the discernment and discretion of the presiding judge receive a further reduction of two or three years and obtain a nine year sentence.

With good behaviour, convicts become eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence and hence he could be released after only six years. And if a new proposal by the justice minister becomes law, 10 to 20 years after release (without any further conviction)m he could apply for (full forgiveness) and have his criminal records expunged. Would this be sufficient punishment or any deterrent?

While forgiveness is never wrong, it often encourages the wrong!