A Snapshot of the Criminal Justice System: Building a Picture Through Sexual Violence Cases in the Court of Appeal 2018 by Shenali De Silva and supported publication

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The disparity in sentences illustrated a lack of uniformity and consistency in judges’ approaches to sentencing sexual violence offending. The non-adherence to statutory minimum sentences and ordering suspended sentences compounded the lack of consistency in sentencing. The existence, and extent, of sentencing disparities alerts to larger issues around the exercise of judicial discretion and the need for
sentencing guidelines and other parameters to ensure consistency, fairness, and to minimise arbitrariness in judicial decision-making. Disparity in judicial decision-making, including non-observance of legislative constraints, indicates the exercise of judicial discretion is an area of the criminal justice system that requires attention when discussing reform.

Chapter 1 provides the backdrop to the study by discussing the prevalence of sexual violence crimes in Sri Lanka – as an illustration as to why sexual violence requires attention in reform discussions. It also discusses the importance of adopting an empirical approach to addressing criminal justice reforms and the inaccessibility of information as a significant issue. Finally, Chapter 1 contains an overview of sexual violence offences (rape and grave sexual abuse), as contained in the Penal Code, and an overview of criminal appeals, as the research dataset is based on appeal judgments.

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