LETTER: Justice has not changed from 1914 to 2011

While researching my family history, I came upon the letter reproduced below and written by a relative of mine, Ernest Loebell.

This letter was published in the Manchester Guardian and the Observer on June 18th, 1914. Looking at our present shambles of justice and the law nothing has changed:

“Most of your readers must have been struck by the marked differences between the punishments meted out to criminals by different judges for crimes which, as far as can be ascertained, exactly resemble each other both in seriousness and in the circumstances under which they were committed.

“For example, at one assize a prisoner with a bad record who commits theft may be sentenced to five years’ penal servitude, while at a second assize another prisoner is sentenced by another judge, for exactly the same offence, to three or six months’ hard labour.

“As the ultimate object aimed at by the legal punishment is to deter crime by warning the prisoner and others that such and such a crime will certainly be followed by such and such a punishment, it seems to me that this object is entirely defeated if it becomes a toss-up, or a species of lottery, as to whether the evil-doer gets off easily or suffers severely.

“Were it a rule that a more accurate and graduated system of inflicting sentences were in vogue, those crimes doing most harm to society being punished with extremest severity, whilst those least noxious received the lightest sentences, the deterrent effects of legal punishments would certainly be more operative.

“Is it not possible and advisable that an alteration in our legal system should be made whereby the judge pronounces as to the guilt or innocence of the prisoner, whilst the jury should, under the direction of the judge, awards the punishment?”

R.J.M.LOEBELL,

Edisford Road, Clitheroe