CJ: Sentencing in society’s interest

The court has a duty to protect society from a defendant’s further offending, Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said last week. But there are other considerations that also reflect society’s interest.

The Chief Justice was dealing with Mark Vandiworth Smith, who had previously pleaded guilty to an attempted assault and handling stolen goods.

He agreed with Defence Attorney James Austin-Smith that these offences were at the lower end of the scale of seriousness. But he pointed out that the defendant, 34, had 37 previous convictions.

The Chief Justice said this factor could not be overlooked. It showed there was a likelihood Smith would commit even further offences.

The court had a duty to protect society from Smith’s further offending; that duty suggested that he impose a further term of imprisonment, he said.

‘But I have to ask myself the question, too, whether that promises a solution which is in society’s interest and whether it offers you a true opportunity not to re-offend.

‘I conclude that it is in society’s interest and your own interest that you be given the opportunity yet again to make something of your life,’ he told Smith.

Keeping the defendant in prison was not only an expensive proposition for society, it would also result in Smith not being employable when he got out, the Chief Justice noted.

Smith was unlikely to fit into the job market unless he earnestly and urgently equipped himself for it. ‘So my advice to you is that you had better come to grips with the reality that this is very much your last chance,’ he told the defendant.

In that regard, he considered a letter offering Smith a job. He also noted that Smith had been in custody for about a year already.

Therefore, the sentence imposed was two years imprisonment, suspended for two years, for each offence. In addition, Smith agreed to an order that he perform 150 hours of community service.

Conditions of that order include random drug testing and counselling.

The offence of attempted assault started out as a charge of attempted robbery in July 2004. The incident involved Smith throwing stones at a man he said owed him money. He acknowledged pelting the stones, but didn’t hit the man nor did he obtain anything from him.

The offence of handling stolen goods involved cigarettes, liquor and a DVD player from a George Town bar. Everything he was charged with was recovered.