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Lent Talks: Cherie Booth.

Booth, Cherie
June 4, 2015

Source: (2007) British Broadcasting Corporation.

I’ve been sitting as a part time judge for ten years now and for me the most difficult part of the process is the sentencing. The defendant faces me from the dock while I explain to him (and it is usually a him) why he’s going to jail. He may listen carefully but I often wonder whether he feels any remorse for his crime or has any idea of the effect he’s had upon his victims. This impression has been reinforced when I’ve visited prisons and spoken to inmates. It seems that neither the court process nor the prison experience is helping them confront their behaviour or its consequences.

And, of course, we must never forget the victims of the crime. Too often they sit in the public gallery – feeling marginal to the case, even bemused by what’s happening. They’re often denied the opportunity to confront the defendant directly with what he’s done, nor given the chance, where he’s genuinely sorry, to receive a personal apology.

All this can make it harder for them to achieve the closure they need – no matter how severe the sentence.

And it’s right and proper that tough sentences are handed down in court for serious crimes or persistent offenders. Imprisonment shows society’s disgust at their actions and helps protect the public by keeping criminals off the streets. But it’s clear that simply locking people up doesn’t itself alter their long-term behaviour. In too many cases, it only shelves the problem. (excerpt)


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