Senate approves removal of mandatory sentences in plea bargaining


The Senate has approved an amendment to the Criminal Justice (Plea Negotiations and Agreement) Amendment Act, removing sentencing restrictions on judges involved in plea bargaining cases.
The amendment removes the mandatory minimum penalty which has to be observed by the judges in plea bargaining cases under the Act. It was passed Friday (November 5) in the Senate.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, who piloted the amendment, pointed to the need for greater incentive to be given to an accused to make a plea bargain agreement, and the motivation to channel it through a reduced sentence.”When the Crime Bills were passed, a mandatory minimum sentence was also imposed in those Bills and what came to the fore then is, how would a judge treat the plea bargaining matter if the judge is required, by statute, to impose a mandatory minimum (sentence)?” She said.
She said that Government recognised that plea bargaining was very important in the fight against crime, and so the decision was taken to amend the Criminal Justice Plea Negotiations and Agreement Act to give the judge the discretion not to impose minimum mandatory sentences.
Senator Lightbourne said the amendment will allow the Act to achieve greater success, in the light of the clear stipulation that a judge or a Resident Magistrate could now impose a sentence less than the mandatory minimum imposed by any enactment where an accused is the subject of a plea bargaining agreement.
“The state benefits as there is a faster disposition of criminal matters, and also the prosecution and the criminal investigation body are able to get much needed information from accused persons which will assist in the interception of other individuals and entities involved in illegal activities,” she pointed out.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte, said that the Bill was seeking to restore discretion to the judges, in instances where the convict has cooperated and is assisting the case.
“I do believe that it is a move in the right direction,” she said.

JIS Social