3.2Several alternative approaches to determining offence seriousness and setting maxima were considered and rejected.
Between 1995 and 1999 there were 100 cases of offenders convicted of a particular offence. Of these cases, 50 resulted in a custodial sentence, and the average length of the custodial sentences imposed on these offenders was 30 days. The seriousness score for this offence is (30 x 50/100), or 15.
3.5This model is not suitable for this review. Not only does it limit the determination of offence seriousness to sentencing data (thereby accepting the correctness of the status quo and ignoring other criteria), but it produces an index of offence seriousness based on average sentences of imprisonment. By contrast, this review will be based on the worst class of case for each offence. So the average number of days of imprisonment (30 days in the above example) includes the whole spectrum of custodial sentences handed down for an offence, rather than focusing on sentences imposed at the top end.
3.7Nevertheless, we are conscious that our own model has limitations. Inevitably, regardless of the method used, the ranking of offences according to seriousness inevitably involves a degree of subjectivity and personal value judgement. Reasonable people using the same guiding principles will inevitably disagree about which offences are more serious than others. For that reason, we have not focused on the minor discrepancies between the offence groupings that our methodology produced and current maximum penalties. Rather, we have highlighted and discussed substantial discrepancies that in our view clearly indicate that appropriate relativities between offences are not properly reflected in current law.
3.8In the remainder of this chapter we consider the first two steps in our process (those directed towards the development of an appropriate quantitative tool for measuring harm) in more detail.