Public Prosecutors and Discretion: A Comparative Study

By Julia Fionda | Go to book overview

8 Conclusion: Recognition and Reform of the Prosecutor's Sentencing Role

THE prosecutor's direct and indirect roles in the sentencing process are undoubtedly expanding in each of the three mainland European jurisdictions studied. However, the pace and direction in which these roles are developing in each country varies quite considerably, and is in proportion with the acknowledgement given to this role of the prosecutor. The degree to which the prosecutor's sentencing role has progressed requires comparison with each of those other jurisdictions, as well as with England and Wales. The rate at which these changes are occurring depends on the momentum for reform within each prosecution service and on the willingness of other branches of each criminal justice system to respond to change. A highway analogy can usefully be employed to illustrate the speed and direction of developments in these jurisdictions.

If the prosecution system of each country is viewed in terms of a car setting off on a journey, the route taken by the car in Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, and England and Wales differs substantially, with some cars travelling further distances, while others have not got very far. None of them, however, has yet determined its destination, since the prosecutors' sentencing roles are limited only by vague standards of constitutionality, and by the extent to which each prosecution system has clearly determined its objective. On this journey, any number of wrong turnings or U-turns may be made before that final destination is identified, and before criminal justice policy allows for that destination to be reached.

In Scotland, the procurator fiscal system set off on a slow but steady journey in the direction of explicit prosecutorial sentencing. Under the inspiration of William Chalmers, the Crown Agent in Scotland during the early 1980s, fiscals acquired the power to fine defendants without reference to the court and the Stewart Committee re-emphasized the importance of prosecutors' warnings as a diversionary tactic to dispose of cases without a full prosecution. However, when Chalmers retired in 1986 and when the legislation proposed by the Stewart Committee was fully implemented by 1987, the procurator fiscal system reached a crossroad and the

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