Sentencing Essay 2

Submitted By Pauline63
Words: 1813
Pages: 8

Sentencing law and punishment is undoubtedly one of the most important areas of law and criminal justice. The historical background of protective sentencing is particularly important since, as Pratt (1995,1996 cited Henman 2003, p.3) has argued convincingly, “It is closely linked to the postmodern emphasis on individual self-government and the related expectation that state intervention is necessary to protect citizen’s rights to life, security and self-determination”. Seemingly, the theories and practices of the past uphold many of the sentencing guidelines, as we know them in the in the UK today, however they are handled in a fair and civilised manner. Various agencies are involved in the sentencing process, including the probation service, the courts and the sentencing council. The Sentencing Council is a non-departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice. The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 created the sentencing council in 2010, replacing the Sentencing Guidelines Council and the Sentencing Advisory Panel.(Norrie,1993) Sentencing guidelines are applicable in all criminal courts in England and Wales to ensure offenders a given a fair sentence, and ensure that the punishment does not outweigh the crime.

The theories and practices that underpin sentencing can be very intricate, for the sentencing process to work successfully these agencies have to work together and follow the guidelines set out by the sentencing council. Parliament sets out sentencing guidelines for the courts to follow therefore, sentencing laws changes according to whichever government is in power. (Joyce, 2006)

There are several different types of courts within the English criminal justice process and the two most important are the magistrates’ courts and the Crown Courts. The magistrates’ courts are the ‘work horses’ of the criminal justice process, and deal with at least 95% of all criminal cases. Uglow (1995 cited in Burke 2012, p.114). Three magistrates or a district judge hears cases in the magistrate’s court, these cases are known as ‘summary offences’, e.g. petty theft, shoplifting and minor public disorder, however, some of the more serious offences such as grievous bodily harm and domestic abuse, known as ‘either way’ offences, can be heard both courts, depending on the seriousness. Sentences of up to 6 months in prison or up to 12 months in total for more than one offence, a fine of up to £5,000, a community sentence or a combination of punishments e.g. a fine and unpaid work in the community can be given out by magistrates’. Magistrates’ are the only court that can give sentences out in weekly terms. Crown Courts deal with criminal cases of a serious nature, e.g. kidnap, sexual offences and high value theft. Crown Court judges also hear appeals against convictions given by a magistrate, and cases passed on to them from the magistrates for sentencing or trial. Community sentences are the most common sentence given for indictable offences, making up for almost a third of sentences passed in magistrates’ and Crown Courts. (Criminal Courts, 2013)

Under the English Legal System, there are six different aims for sentencing criminals: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, reparation, denunciation and rehabilitation, otherwise known as community sentences. The aims of these sentences are to fit the weightiness of the crime, whilst taking into account the rehabilitation of the offender.

Three types of theories of sentencing used for community sentences include deterrence, rehabilitation and retributivism ; Deterrence, the idea that punishments should be of such a nature that they will put people off (deter) committing crimes. there are two types of deterrence specific deterrence of those actually sentenced, and general deterrence of others put off from offending for fear of the sentencing consequences. However, high crime rates can easily be used to demonstrate that deterrence is not as effective as the government hoped it would be. If