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Empirical Study on Appellate Intervention in Manifestly Excessive or Inadequate Sentences in Singapore

Lim Wei Yang

(2020) 32 SAcLJ 684

Once upon a time there was a judge named Goldilocks. She was scheduled to hear magistrate’s appeals in the afternoon. On her desk were the briefs for three different cases. She read the first file. “This sentence is manifestly excessive!” she exclaimed. Next, she read the second file. “This sentence is manifestly inadequate!” she lamented. At last, after reading the last file, she leaned back in her chair and smiled. “Ah!” she exclaimed, “this sentence is neither manifestly excessive nor inadequate and gives sufficient weight to both the principles of deterrence and rehabilitation and is proportionate to the gravity of the offence, having regard also to the personal circumstances of the offender”. In reality, unlike for Judge Goldilocks, it may not be as clear whether a sentence is manifestly excessive or inadequate, because the sentence might simply be on the high side (or low side) without warranting appellate intervention. This article surveys all reported appeals against sentence from 1990 to 2017 to provide an overview of when an appellate court will intervene in an appeal against sentence on the grounds of manifest excessiveness or inadequacy.