SENTENCE: No right to reduction

Having read the account of the sentencing of John William Henderson (Northumberland Gazette, May 30), I am astounded at the judge’s decision to reduce his sentence by a third by law as he had pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.

Unless the law has changed since I was a chairman of magistrates, the law stated that: “A sentence could be reduced by up to one third if the defendant pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.”

Depending on the severity of the offence (and Henderson’s was several fold) and if the defendant had been caught with no mitigating circumstances (in other words, red-handed) then the reduction could vary from nil to one third.

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Unfortunately, some magistrates, judges and defence lawyers then started using the one-third reduction as a right.

I never did and in most cases gave the defendant the full sentence.

In Henderson’s case, I believe he should have received the full sentence of 21 years at least.

I would question the fact that he should receive one-third off, or that the sentences should run concurrently as they were committed in different years and they were different offences, ie. rape, sexual assault and making an indecent photograph of a child.

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The next problem is that Henderson will be due in front of a Parole Board after seven years and going by past Parole Board records, he could be back in society again.

Our laws and those who pass sentences need tightening up.


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