Imprisoning parents is inevitably traumatic for their children, and striking a balance between child welfare and appropriate punishment of criminals is a dilemma confronted by judges every day. However, a Court of Appeal ruling has emphasised that parenthood is not a trump card that can be played to avoid jail.

The case concerned a prison officer who had admitted smuggling large quantities of contraband, including cannabis and mobile phones, to inmates at the institution where she worked. She was spared jail and given a suspended two-year sentence, largely due to her responsibilities to her two young children.

The sentence was challenged by the Solicitor General on the basis that it was unduly lenient. The Court acknowledged that the welfare of the woman’s children was a primary consideration. However, the seriousness of her economically motivated crimes had to be marked by an appropriate sentence.

The woman was guilty of grave breaches of trust and the prevalence of contraband items in prison is a serious problem, helping to promote criminal economies and power structures. Her crimes demanded a fitting punishment and the Court imposed an immediate prison sentence of two years and eight months.


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