Someone said :
If you mean it should be consistent then I agree. If you mean there should be no mitigating circumstances taken into account then I don't really agree.
Mitigating circumstances should always be taken into account (you mentioned good character references, etc).
But in his case, his education, degrees and good character are aggravating factors!
He knew what he was doing, he did not do it out of genuine need (he did not steal bread to feed his family and as the judge said there are people in more dire situations who do not resort to drug dealing.
To take an extreme example that some will discard as as coming from some "bleeding heart liberals":
- Someone has had a poor education, no job, no family support
- They may or may not be lazy, but they are hungry (maybe of their own fault)
- They steal bread
He has a mitigating factor in their destitute background.
Rather than lock him up (in the penal school of crime) to teach him how to be a better criminal next times, it is better for society to first address his destitution and maybe look into his education needs.
If he does it again, after efforts are made by society to genuinely compensate for his destitution, then he has lost his mitigating circumstances, he has been given a second chance and he has spoiled it. Lock him up.
Now compare to:
- Educated lad from a middle-class background
- Steals bread because he forgot his change or just because he feels like having a bite
His background has given him more chances in life than most people.
Giving him a second chance will be of no use. He needs to get the point that stealing for sports is never acceptable and the we know he know it but he does not care.
It's the only way to make him care, and sending him to prison will not turn him into a career criminal. He will just found out how much he has lost and how much more he has to loose if he does it again.
The second lad was born with a second chance, the first one needed to be given that second chance. And having a differentiated sentence in this case is a mark of fairness and consistency.
The first guy will (should) be treated like the second lad if he re-offends. That is why the sentence is decided by a judge/jury based on evidence and not by friends of the victims or of the culprit or the media or GÃ¡ire posters based on an emotional response...