Drug use isn’t a mitigating factor

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RE: SENTENCING for alcohol-linked offences.

According to the reports of cases in the local Magistrates Court, the over-indulgence of alcohol and illegal use of controlled drugs is frequently, if not indeed invariably, a precursor to crimes of violence in the case of alcohol, and crimes of theft to fund a drug habit. Examples of both instances were reported in the Wednesday May 25 edition of this newspaper.

Such reports invariably give an account of the mitigation offered by the offender’s lawyer, in which the direct or indirect effect of alcohol or drugs is made known to the magistrates. While this may well be prefaced by a comment that it is accepted that such matters are not an excuse, they are nonetheless seemingly offered as mitigation. Perhaps in some cases where an offender has a substantial criminal record, there is little else that can be said. I must assume that it is hoped that alcohol and drug abuse might just possibly result in a slight reduction in the severity of the sentence, however small, or there would seemingly be no point in mentioning it.

As the reports of cases in the courts are usually silent on what is and what is not taken into consideration as regards the sentence imposed, the effect of mitigation in general is not mostly unknown. However if a reduction in a sentence, however small, is obtained, then this may result in a totally absurd situation, whereby a joint offender with a similar criminal record, and a guilty plea at the first instance, and who has no alcohol or drug ‘mitigation’, will in effect receive a harsher sentence!

It seems to me more logical to regard illegal drug use and drunkenness as aggravating and not mitigating factors. This is already the case for motoring offences, which are often committed by otherwise law-abiding citizens, who might reasonably feel aggrieved at the disparity. I also wonder what if any action is taken as a result of admissions regarding what are drug offences. Confessions of other crimes to the police would almost certainly be investigated and dealt with.

Mick Thompson

Byward Drive