LETTER OF THE DAY - Judges must be held accountable, too
THE EDITOR, Sir:I have read, with much interest, the riveting article titled 'Free at last!', which was published in this newspaper on Sunday, December 7, 2014.
Wilburn Purcell was sentenced to life imprisonment for illegal possession of firearm, a most infelicitous act resulting from a judge's imprudent deviation from the code of the sentencing guidelines and the rule of law, which was manifestly disproportionate to the crime committed.
Since the law relating to gun offences was amended in the 1980s for an allotment of years for serving sentences, and for which a judge could and should have used discretion in determining whether to impose the maximum sentence, there is no doubt that this act of excessive punishment was unconstitutional and unjustified, in any democracy, because the gravity of Purcell's offence was so low as compared to the harshness of the sentence.
I am quite disturbed that a judge could err in that way, particularly in light of the fact that s/he knew, or should have known, of said amendment at the time, and the fact that the judiciary is charged with the very important responsibility of interpreting the law, assessing the evidence presented, and upon a finding of guilt or a plea of guilty, abiding by the sentencing guidelines, fairly imposing sentences proportional to the crime.
Judges must be held to account, like any other public official or citizen, when they operate contrary to the rule of law.