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Court sentencing decisions

Jesus said, “For judgment [Greek krima = decision] I am come into the world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”  John 9: 39

 

It often comes as a complete surprise to newcomers to this tiny island of Jersey that the courts here have autonomy over sentences for those found guilty of criminal offences.

 

As Advocate Cyril Whelan wrote in an important 2003 document about sentencing, “The key explanation of how and why the Jersey Courts are at liberty to pursue a policy of their own as to quantum [that is, quantity of penalty] was given by the Court of Appeal in Pagett (1984) JJ 57, a case of dishonesty, and specifically confirmed as to drugs offences in Campbell, Molloy and MacKenzie (1995) JLR 136. …..In Campbell, Molloy and MacKenzie, the Jersey Court of Appeal put the matter this way: “…….. As we have already stated, Jersey is a separate jurisdiction and entitled to fix its own proper sentencing levels.”

 

Drugs offences? Jersey fixes its own penalties? It’s rather interesting why Jersey courts have significantly higher penalties for drugs offences than courts in the UK. Here’s another extract from Advocate Whelan’s 2003 document: -

 

The virtually full employment and high disposable income among the young in Jersey stand in contrast to those inner city areas of England where drugs are most prevalent. Combined with the difficulties of importation into a small island, the ports of which can be closely policed, these features create a prime seller’s market. What could be bought for £5 on an English street could be sold for £30 on a Jersey street. Against that background, exponential growth in the number of drugs offences was inevitable, and has continued.

 

Yes, the punishment must fit the crime. If the crime pays well, the punishment must be higher….. And, in drug trafficking cases, the consequences of the crime are horrendous on young lives – whilst the motivation for the perpetrator is serious money.

 

Why, then, did Jesus [AD 0 – 33] speak the words in bold above? He came into the world to bring judgment upon people - to specify the outcome of their conduct – to make clear the sentencing decision.

 

The sentence – the quantum of penalty - that his arrival in and exit from the world [AD 0 and AD 33 respectively] would bring about had to do solely with sight.  Some will see. Others will become blind. No other sentences are mentioned. And, clearly, Jesus has sentencing autonomy – much like Jersey as a separate jurisdiction.

 

Leaving aside those who, never having seen before, will now see, what does it mean that those who see will become blind? That’s some quantum. Of what crime is that a fitting, a just punishment?

 

There must be a unique, unprecedented and glaringly obvious thing that Jesus himself demonstrated that is so unequivocally plain that, if folk don’t see it, they rightly will never see anything again.  

 

How about this? Jesus was the only man who decided to suffer, to be rejected, to be mocked, to be spat upon, to be delivered over into the hands of his enemies, to be killed – for the benefit of others. Actually, for the benefit of those who caused his suffering, who rejected, mocked, spat on, delivered over and killed him.

 

Is it right that those who see that but do not change should no longer see? It’s certainly true that those who do see that – and change – do indeed see their own need of change and forgiveness.

 

But the fact that many blind people are around the place is worth observing. Inability to see anything other than what relates to ME is blindness indeed – and a terrifying sentence if it’s everlasting.

 

And those who now see? Are they like Him? Do they really see? Their actions will demonstrate that they can see – for all to see.

 
My object all sublimeI shall achieve in time —To let the punishment fit the crime —The punishment fit the crime; (W. S Gilbert, The Mikado, 1836-1911)
 
‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Jesus Christ, AD 33, Jerusalem)
 
Richard Syvret

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