This is an ongoing case; however, I will speak only on the initial sentence given to Cardinal Pell for the crime that he was convicted of in December 2018.
Was his sentence appropriate?
Emotion vs Legal System
What was disappointing, however, unsurprising was the response (or uproar) of the community.
A tweet by The Australian, after the sentence was handed down included comments such as:
“Should have been for life.”
“Another shameful episode in Australia’s judicial history.”
“What a load of rubbish.”
I think it is important to say that I do not condone any forms of abuse; sexual, physical or emotional against anybody. This is a clear case of the abuse of power against minors which adds to the traumatic nature of the case.
But the legal system CAN NOT make decisions based upon emotions.
Imagine if the legal decisions were made based on people’s emotions and feelings towards an individual person. What would be created is a corrupt legal system, with no equality, fairness or access to natural justice.
Imagine if someone committed a crime and received 2 years imprisonment, but you committed the exact same crime but received 10 years because of the extreme emotions and views of the community towards you. That is the complete removal of equality and fairness in the criminal justice system.
That in no way means that you can’t be angry, but it is so important to remember that for a legal system to function effectively, decisions can’t be made on emotions.
His sentence is appropriate based on three key areas:
1. When sentencing cases that have occurred in the past, the judge considers the judicial guidelines regarding sentencing at the time that the crime was committed. He is sentenced based on how people were sentenced for similar crimes at the time the crime was committed.
2. The mitigating factor of the time since he committed the crime is significant as he has no other convictions and leads towards assuming that he is unlikely to re-offend
3. This is further highlighted through his age, which is another mitigating factor in the sentencing process
Another argument that was raised was that there should be mandatory life imprisonment (or some sort of mandatory sentencing) for cases of child sexual abuse.
There are advantages of mandatory sentencing, and I don’t oppose the concept entirely but, in this case, the people who wanted mandatory sentencing, also wanted emotions to be part of the legal system, two contradictory ideas.
Mandatory sentencing deprives equality and limits judicial discretion, which although some people may consider a good thing, is detrimental because individual cases cannot be taken into consideration. This is more pertinent in child sexual abuse cases where it is based highly upon individual circumstances; therefore, mandatory sentencing would be detrimental to the achievement of justice for all involved.