The Attorney General has clarified to Tynwald that he does not get involved in sentencing, but he can seek to make appeals against them.
John Quinn (pictured) was asked by Jason Moorhouse (Arbory, Castletown and Malew) to confirm what assessments are made of current sentencing decisions by island courts and the consideration of public opinion?
He explained that while the function of the office includes being ’superintendent of prosecution’, Mr Quinn said he does ’not have any function in deciding appropriate sentencing practice or in making decisions in that regard about any individual or prosecution case’.
Mr Quinn added: ’Sentencing in every case, is a matter reserved solely for the presiding judicial officers.
’Once a sentence has been imposed by the court, if I’m of the opinion that the sentence is too lenient, or where I consider that the court may have erred in law as regards its sentencing power for the offence, Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 gives me the power to seek leave to appeal the sentence.’
’It is therefore part of the function of my office to consider the outcome of all successful criminal prosecutions in relation to the sentence imposed and I personally, proactively, review all such cases on the request of my Director of Prosecutions or her team members as they return from the sentencing court.’
If a request is made to seek an appeal, Mr Quinn said he examines ’all relevant factors before coming to a decision over whether to seek leave to appeal the sentence’.
However, he said that an important part of this is that ’I do not sway to public opinion or political pressure’.
’The decision is a public interest one and not a political one’, Mr Quinn said.
’I carefully review all circumstances of the case, including established sentencing guidelines and practice, and exercise my judgement in an appropriate manner by fully reviewing the merits of an appeal before making my decision.
’Where I do decide to make a reference and seek leave to appeal and where leave is granted, appeal proceedings will commence. And in those circumstances, I’m not able to comment on that particular case until the appeal proceedings have finished.’
Following a second question from Mr Moorhouse about who he listens to in regards to seeking an appeal, Mr Quinn said he relies on the prosecution team to put forward cases he can appeal, but from then on it is a ’personal review’ that he undertakes before making his decision.
He added: ’From time to time, I do receive letters as Attorney General with views expressed by members of the public and clearly I will read those and I will take them into account.’
When asked by Speaker Juan Watterson whether the introduction of a sentencing guidance council, as envisioned in the Justice Reform Bill would have, Mr Quinn said it would be of ’great value’.
It was recently announced that the Attorney General’s Chambers is to appeal against the sentence handed down to Charles Cover.
A statement on behalf of the Attorney General’s Chambers said: ’The Attorney General [John Quinn] has confirmed that he intends to refer the sentence of Mr Cover to the Appeal Division on the basis of undue leniency.
’As this process has been commenced we will not comment further until the outcome of court proceedings.’
Convicted paedophile Cover was handed an 18-month suspended sentence by Deemster Kainth earlier this month after being found guilty by a jury of gross indecency and indecent assault of a minor.