Without an urgent review of sentencing guidelines, our faith in the justice system will continue to plummet
In an important court case that concluded yesterday, Karen Hasson, who admitted the manslaughter of her elderly neighbour Samuel Carson, was spared a jail sentence and given two years' probation and ordered to carry out 100 hours of community service.
The judge said that Hasson would be burdened by guilt for the rest of her life, but that human life cannot be restored by a prison sentence. He added: "Justice should be seasoned with mercy in the appropriate circumstances."
Following a row with her husband, Hasson started a fire in the garage of their home and ignited the oil tank.
Burning oil then spread to the house next door and subsequently set Mr Carson's bungalow on fire. The widowed grandfather, who was aged 91, tried unsuccessfully to escape, eventually dying from smoke inhalation.
Mr Carson's family have been taken aback by the sentence. The elderly man met a horrible death, and it was reasonable for his relatives to expect the imposition of a custodial sentence for his manslaughter.
Hasson cut a contrite figure in court, which would imply her remorse. It was clear that she had never meant to kill Mr Carson, and the judge spoke of how she could not have anticipated such an extreme chain of events.
The family of Mr Carson do not feel that justice has been served, and they believe that they have been let down. They said that they were "disappointed" by the sentence.
This newspaper has recently documented a number of cases in which the punishment did not seem to fit the crime.
Judges are, of course, constrained in the sentences they can impose under strict guidelines laid down by others. However, people's confidence in the justice system can only be weakened when sentences seen as inappropriate are handed down.
There is clearly a strong case for urgently reviewing sentencing guidelines in order to restore people's faith in the system.