Human rights challenge to conditional release fails

| 06/04/2017 | 1 Comment

(CNS): An attorney who argued that his client is receiving a longer sentence than he should be because of the impact of the Conditional Release Law being implemented between the time he carried out an offence and his sentencing failed to convince the Grand Court Thursday that he had a case. Jonathon Hughes from Sampson Law argued the test human rights case on behalf of Ionut Petcu, who was one of a gang of foreign thieves convicted of fraud on local ATM machines. He was sentenced to 30 months in jail after the change in the law, but the lawyer was unable to convince the judge that there was anything unfair about his client’s circumstances.

Hughes submitted that the change in the law meant Petcu faced the prospect of serving the entire term just because he was unlucky enough to be sentenced just two weeks after the legislative amendment was implemented.

But the judge was quick to drill down to the crux of the issue, which was that the length of the sentence that Petcu received was not impacted. The implementation of the Conditional Release Law did not effect the time he was given for that offence as it was the legislation dealing with the prison sentence management regime that was impacted, not lengths of sentences for certain crimes.

The judge pointed out that if anything, the argument about the way the new law would impact the percentage of time served should have been made to the judge at the time of sentencing to allow him to consider that factor and weigh it in his deliberations regarding the appropriate final term. But he did not see that there was anything unfair or unjust surrounding Petcu’s case, as the sentence was not harsh, but just that he was slightly unlucky.

He dismissed the application, pointing out that the law relating to the conditional release had to start at some point and the maximum sentence for the crime Petcu pleaded guilty to did not change during the time between when he committed the fraud and when he was handed the jail term.

Only one of a few inmates that were impacted by the change in the law happening while they were still going through the court process, the issue for Petcu is less material. He is scheduled to be released next month, which under the new law would normally mean on licence. That is a departure from the previous legislation, when after serving two-thirds of a sentence all inmates were released without any conditions unless they committed a crime in jail.

Under the new law inmates will still be released but they will be let out on licence with conditions attached and will in theory still be serving the sentence but doing so in the community. But Petcu is Romanian, and so he will be deported on the day he is released, which means that local supervision cannot apply.

The decision by the court, however, means the small number of local inmates who committed their crimes before the law was implemented but were sentenced afterwards are unlikely to have any greater success should they too try to test the legal waters. Justice Worsley’s decision makes it clear that the court has not found any constitutional inequity that needs to be remedied.

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Category: Courts, Crime

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  1. Anonymous says:

    human right cases it take tones and large sums of money if it involves government , as you really have to go to higher courts to get justice?

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