Aims of Sentencing
When judges or magistrates pass a sentence they will look at what they are trying to achieve. Section 142 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 sets out the purpose of sentencing for people aged eighteen years and older says a court must consider the punishment of offenders, reduction of crime, reform and rehabilitation of offenders, the protection of the public and the reparation by offenders.
Punishment does not look to change offenders’ behavior. The punishment given must be in proportion to the crime committed. 'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life' - this was used to justify the death penalty in America. One judge has been known to use this saying - he gave victims of burglary the right to go with a law officer, to the home of the burglar and take items of approximate value to the ones stolen for him or her.
This means that the sentence given must be in proportion to the crime committed. The Sentencing Guidelines Council makes the guidelines for this.
There are two different types of deterrence, one is called individual deterrence and one is called a general deterrence.
Fifty-five percent of adult prisoners re-offend within two years of release. Over seventy percent of young prisoners re-offend within two years of release. Prison assumes the offender will think about what they have done and the consequences, however most crimes are just a spur of the moment, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The fear of being caught is more of a deterrent. Surveillance cameras have reduced the crime rate a lot. For example in one scheme in London's District Line of the underground system there was an eighty-three percent reduction in crime in the first year that surveillance cameras were used.
General deterrence is when potential offenders are put off by the punishment of others, however it rarely works. Sometimes the courts will make examples of certain people to warn others of the type of punishment they will receive. General deterrence relies on the media to publicize the sentence someone has received. Deterrent sentences don't work in the cases of foreign drug smugglers, courts are keen to make examples of them but it still doesn't work. General deterrence goes against the principle of retribution because it involves a longer sentence than is needed.
The main aim of reform is to change the offender and get them back into society. Its aims are that the offender will not re-offend which will reduce crime. The abuse of drugs is the main cause of a lot of crimes, for drug smugglers there are requirements like drug testing and treatment orders aimed at trying to rehabilitate drug users. The court will be given information about the defendant's background through a pre-sentence report written by the probation service. The court will consider other factors where relevant life job prospects, school reports and medical issues.