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The Role of the Courts
whenever a person is found guilty of an offence, the court must decide what sentence
should be imposed on the offender. The Magistrates are restricted to imposing a
maximum of 6 months imprisonment for one offence (12 months for two) and a
maximum fine of £5,000. Judges in the Crown Court have no limits to the length of
imprisoning people and the fines they can impose.
Restrictions on the Courts' Powers
The type and length of sentences in some cases are restricted. For instance, the crime
of theft has a fixed maximum of seven years imprisonment, so no matter how much has
been stolen the judge cannot sentence a person for longer than this. Manslaughter and
rape cases have a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; the judge has complete
discretion as to choosing the sentence and the length of it. Murder cases carry a
mandatory life sentence, in other words the judge has to pass life imprisonment.
Aims of Sentencing
s142 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 sets out the purposes of sentencing those over
18, saying the court must have regard to:
-The punishment of offenders.
-The reduction of crime (including its reduction by deterrence.
-The reform and rehabilitation of offenders.
-The protection of the public.
-The making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by their offences.
For young offenders S 142A of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that as well as
the aims of punishment, reform and rehabilitation, protection of the public and
reparation the court must have regard to the principal aim of the youth justice system
Punishment is often referred to retribution. Retribution is concerned only with the
offence committed and making sure that the punishment inflicted is in proportion to
that offence. The saying "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and a life for a
life" was derived from the bible and used to justify the death penalty for murder
offences. In America, there was one judge who gave victims of burglary the right to go
to the home of the burglar and take items up to the approximate value of those stolen
from them. In other crimes, it is difficult to see how this principle can operate to
produce an exact match between crime and punishment. The Sentencing Council
produced guidelines for 'tariff sentencing' as to the degree of the offence and the
range of sentencing applicable. For instance robberies including threat range from 1-3
years of custody and robberies including use of a weapon range from 4-7 years of
-Individual deterrence is intended to ensure that an offender does not reoffend
through the fear of future imprisonment. The sentences include a prison sentence, a
suspended sentence and a heavy fine. However 55% of adult offenders reoffend
within 2 years and 70% of young offenders given a custodial sentence reoffend within
2 years. The principle of deterrence implies that offenders will stop to consider the
consequences of his actions, when in fact most offences are committed on the spur of

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The fear of being caught is
more of a deterrent than the fear of imprisonment. In one scheme of London's District
Line, crime was reduced by 83% in the first year surveillance cameras were used.
-General deterrence is intended to warn potential offenders as to the punishments
they may be faced with. This principle relies heavily on publicity.…read more

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Factors Surrounding the Offence
s143(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 states the most important point to establish
is the seriousness of offences and also lists certain factors to be considered as
aggravating, making an offence more serious which are:
-Previous convictions for offences of a similar nature.
-The fact that the defendant was on bail while he committed the offence.
-Racial or religious hostility being involved in the offence.
-Hostility to disability or sexual orientation involved in the offence.…read more

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Sentencing Council.
Powers of the Courts
The four main categories of sentencing available to the courts are:
-Custodial sentences.
-Community sentences.
The courts also have the power to make compensation orders and, in motoring
offences, can disqualify offenders from driving.
Custodial Sentences
Most serious offences. These sentences range from a few works to life imprisonment.
They include:
-Mandatory and discretionary life sentences.
-Fixed-term sentences.
-Suspended sentences.…read more

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For serious offences of manslaughter, rape and robbery the maximum sentence is life
imprisonment. The judge has discretion in sentencing and does not have to give a life
Fixed-term Sentences
Imprisonment for a set number of months or years is known as a 'fixed-term
sentence'. Prisoners are released from prison automatically after they have served
half the sentence. Offenders over 21 can be given a sentence of imprisonment.…read more

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The exact number of hours is determined by
the court and worked in 8 hour sessions usually on the weekends. Eric Cantona was
found guilty of assaulting a fan and was ordered to help coaching sessions for young
footballers. Other countries impose a much longer scheme for community orders.
-Activity requirement.
-Programme requirement.
-Prohibited activity requirement.
This requirement allows a variety of activities to be prevented to prevent the offender
from reoffending of the type of offence he had committed.…read more

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Young Offenders
This term includes all those aged under 21. The main aim of this sentencing is
reformation and rehabilitation. Young offenders are dealt with by the special
Magistrates Courts known as the Youth Courts.
Young Offenders' Institutions
Offenders aged 18-20 will be sent here, as a custodial sentence, for a minimum of 21
days and a maximum of the maximum allowed for this particular offence. On reaching
the age of 21, the offender will be transferred to an adult prison.…read more

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Most of the requirements are the same as the ones that can be used for adults,
however there are some aimed at young offenders, for example, the local authority
residence requirement whereby an under 17's can be placed in care of local authority.
Attendance centre orders are available for those between 10-25 years of age. It is
run by the probation service and provides training for those sent there. Offenders may
be required to attend 2-3 hours a week which will include leisure activities.…read more

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Explain the main aims and factors likely to be considered when deciding the
appropriate sentence for Bethan. [12]
June 2009
(a) Describe the custodial, community and other sentences available for young
offenders. [18]
(b) Discuss which sentences are most likely to prevent a young offender from
further offending. [12]
January 2010
(a) Describe the custodial and community sentences available for adult offenders
convicted in both the Magistrates Court and the Crown Court.…read more


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