In almost all the criminal justice systems, there are two opposing schools of thought: Those who believe that sentencing of similar cases should be uniform and those who believe that sentencing should take an individualized approach. …
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The first group argue that it is logical for “punishment to fit the crime that constitute the interesting penological questions” while the second group counters by arguing that “justice should be served by an individualized approach to sentencing” (Jacobson & Hough, 2007). The fact is that in creating laws, we have imagined a situation whereby a robber is handed the same sentence by all magistrates as any other robber. However, even these legislative pieces have given the judges and magistrates some discretion to decide on the exact sentence that the different robbers should be handed. This principle has been opposed by factions of the society. They have perceived such sentences as being based on personal whims rather than the law (Jacobson & Hough, 2007). This is a long-standing debate in the criminological circles in Hong Kong as in any where else. This approach has made some people to argue that the magistrates are sending the wrong message to the public (Jacobson & Hough, 2007). This is more so when such sensitive issues as socio-economic status come to play. The public will not understand why the judge let go of a first-time offender, who happened to be the niece of a judge; and took to jail another boy who has been a habitual offender, and who comes from a poor family, for the same offense. However, different magistrates will give different sentences for similar cases. This is not a default of Hong Kong’s criminal justice system. This is a principle that is carried out for the sake of justice; it is a principle that promotes rehabilitation of an offender rather than retribution. However, not many people agree to that principle. Some people believe that this principle has been misused. Yes, Hong Kong needs a criminal justice system that is thorough, impartial and fair: A justice system that will look at a robber and hand him or her the same penalty as any other robber. Human beings have tried to create a justice system that is blind to people’s social, academic, health or family backgrounds. But as much as we have wanted this to work, it has not been possible. A juvenile who steals from a shop can not be handed the same sentence as a grown man who steals from the same shop. If someone has committed a crime for the first time, you do not punish him as a habitual offender. But still people have reasoned that it is only when the justice process is free, fair and impartial that justice is truly served. Some people have gone as far as suggesting that certain juveniles should be subjected to the same justice system as the adults. These people have gone ahead and described delinquent acts crime: That murder is murder is murder, whether committed by an adult or a minor. These people argue that the children who engage in delinquent acts break the law just as any other criminal. They should thus face the full force of the law just any other person. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. The same crimes, when subjected to different magistrates, the world over, have invited different sentences. This phenomenon has been more pronounced in Hong Kong. This has left some key stake holders in the Hong Kong’s criminal justice system wondering: Is there different sentences for similar cases in different magistrates? If yes, why have these similar cases received different sentences by different magistrates? There are numerous statistics which show that, indeed, there are different sentences for similar cases by different magistrates. This might have cast aspersions on the integrity and credibility of Hong Kong’s Judiciary. Some people have interpreted this to mean that the Courts are compromised in their judgments (and
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