Sentencing Detailed Overview

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  • Created by: Liz
  • Created on: 25-04-11 17:52


As set out in Section 142 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003-
1. To punish offenders.
2. To reduce crime (inc. reduction by deterrence).
3. To reform/rehabilitate offenders.
4. To protect the public.
5. To allow the making of reparations by offenders to persons affected by their crimes.

Theories of Punishment & Aims
Retributive punishment- looks back at the crime; punishment because the offender has committed a crime. Examples:

  • Retribution: Punishment because the offender deserves it- revenge; 'an eye for an eye'. Tariff sentences from the Sentencing Guidelines Council provide guidelines about sentencing for common offences, in order to provide national consistency across the country.
  • Denunciation: Society expresses disapproval of criminal activity- the sentence indicates that society condemns certain behaviour, and shows people that justice is being done. Denunciation also reinforces moral boundaries of acceptable conduct.

Utilitarian punishment- focus on looking to the future; the punishment should have a useful purpose. Examples:

  • Incapacitation: Aka protecting the public. The offender is made incapable of reoffending via punishments such as tagging or a long prison sentence.   
  • Deterrence: Individual deterrence aims to stop someone reoffending via fear of future punishment (e.g. prison). Doesn't always work; around 55% of adult prisoners reoffend within two years of being released from prison. General deterrence is aimed at preventing potential offenders from committing crimes by 'making an example of' certain offenders when sentencing.
  • Reform/Rehabilitation: Aims to literally reform and change an offender's behaviour in order to rehabilitate him/her back into society. Hopes to reduce future crime, and is often used for young offenders. Sentences with this aim are individualised and tailored to the offender, which can cause inconsistent sentencing.
  • Reparation: Aims to compensate victims of crime via things such as getting the offender to pay money to the victim, or return stolen property. Reparation can be made to society through things such as unpaid work.

 As well as these aims, other factors considered in sentencing are offence factors and offender factors. Offence factors are things relating to the seriouness of the crime- aggravating factors increase seriousness whilst mitigating factors decrease; for example if a weapon was involved this is an aggravating offence factor. Offender factors can also be mitigating or aggravating and include the offender's background, medical report, financial situation and previous convictions.

Guilty Plea Sentence Reduction

  • Pleaded at first opportunity- 1/3 reduction
  • Pleaded after trial set, but before trial occurred- 1/4 reduction
  • Pleaded at trial- 1/10 reduction.

Court Sentencing Powers
- Maximum sentences for each type of offence are set by Parliament; e.g. Theft- 7yr max.
- Minimum sentences only exist for repeat offenders; e.g. burglary has a minimum of 3yrs for third time offenders.
- The Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 introduced both minimum sentences as well as an automatic life sentence for a second serious/violent offence- unless there are exceptional circumstances.
- Murder is the only offence with a mandatory sentence-life imprisonment- and apart from murder, The Crown Court is


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