Police are not responsible for sentencing but even so they should not be implying that soft jail terms are acceptable

News Letter editorial of Monday September 13 2021:

Monday, 13th September 2021, 8:54 am
Updated Monday, 13th September 2021, 6:17 pm
News Letter editorial

Lenient sentences are nothing out of the ordinary in Northern Ireland.

But in a recent instance of such the PSNI actually praised the term handed down.

A six-month jail term was given to a man who repeatedly knifed his mother in the neck, leaving her fleeing the scene, her neck pouring blood.

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A PSNI officer said: “[We] hope this sentencing sends out a clear message to anyone who thinks they can get away with this type of crime.

“We will work tirelessly to bring offenders before the courts so that victims receive the justice they deserve.”

Police are not themselves responsible for sentencing, so they are not the primary problem in these sorts of cases.

And perhaps the police are themselves so inured to short jail terms that they feel that they are welcome to see any sentence which is not suspended entirely.

There are perhaps familial and compassionate circumstances in this case which are unknown because the victim later died (not of her injuries). But even so, certain acts are so violent and dangerous that they demand lengthy prison sentences and the police should not suggest otherwise.

Every so often there is a public outcry in Northern Ireland over a soft sentence, such as over a motorist who through their reckless behaviour has killed another human being.

And every so often a sentence is increased on appeal.

But the problem with weak terms is chronic and multi faceted.

This newspaper has repeatedly reported on the lenient bail and sentencing system that applies to serious dissident terrorist cases.

A major part of the problem is limited prison capacity.

Stormont sometimes has questionable priorities when it comes to its often lavish spending.

Is anyone prepared to think through the popular demand for tougher terms by allocating funds for extra jail spaces?

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Acting Editor