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The Penal System - Discuss the aims of sentencing and consider other factors the criminal courts will use to reach an appropriate sentence.

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THE PENAL SYSTEM Discuss the aims of sentencing and consider other factors the criminal courts will use to reach an appropriate sentence. In order to discuss the aims and influencing factors behind sentencing it is first necessary to establish what is meant by the term, sentencing. Sentencing refers to the judgement of a court stating the punishment to be imposed on a defendant who has pleaded guilty to a crime or been found guilty by the jury. Whilst the Magistrate court has fixed maximum powers, Crown Court judges do not and as such have wide sentencing discretion, (with the exception of Murder and some second offences which have mandatory statutory sentencing). Before turning to the influences on the Judges when it comes to sentencing a defendant, it is first be necessary to establish the different intentions or outcomes a judge may wish to achieve by imposing for instance a community punishment order, a custodial sentence or a fine. There are a number of different theories of punishment, and different aims and purposes underlying the legal provisions for sentencing under the English Legal System. Broadly speaking however the aims of punishment fall into six main categories: * Retribution * Denunciation * Incapacitation * Deterrence * Rehabilitation * Reparation It is clear without even an in depth look that each of these aims that there are inherent conflicts, as it is had to see how a sentence aimed at rehabilitation is able to act as a deterrent. ...read more.


This idea of societies disapproval formed the basis of the influential Criminal Justice Act 1991. Whilst maintaining moral bounders can be seen to be one aim, of equal importance is the protection of society in more physical terms. This can take many different forms form electronic tagging, to a driving ban, to a long prison sentence for the most serious crimes (Criminal Courts (sentencing) Act (s79)). All however have the same aim, to prevent the criminal from re-offending. Whilst the aims of retribution, denunciation and incapacitation are concerned primarily with punishment of an individual and protection from an individual, the idea of deterrence is it may be argued more general. The theory of deterrence is sound; the punishment is aimed at deterring the criminal from repeating his offence or deterring other form committing a similar crime. In this way a deterrent sentence may be aimed at both an individual and society more generally. Reality however has proven that certainly prison does not appear to deter either, the convicted or the criminally intent. Glaringly shown by the statistic that 55% of adult prisoner re-offend within two years. More generally the effect is even less, it is extremely hard to make an example of a criminal (R v Whitton 1985), and most would argue that, this is only right in order to maintain individual civil liberties and human rights. ...read more.


Obviously a sentence can and does frequently have more than one aim, however when deciding the severity opposed to aim a justice will consider many other factors. One of the most important is the seriousness of the crime and whether the crime was in any way premeditated or was it opportunistic, the later carrying a heavier sentence. The Court will also consider the individual's plea (an early guilt plea can reduce a sentence by a third), their background, any previous convictions, their financial situation, and their mental health. This is done through a series of reports usually prepared by the Probation Service, these pre sentence report, outline not only the individuals background but also the suitability of different forms of sentence, for instance community based opposed to custodial. (Where a serious offence has been committed where there is a mandatory sentence, for example murder these reports and irrelevant.) When dealing with a youth, the Court may additional also consider school reports and job prospects. Where race is involved the Courts are under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (s82) allowed to take racial aggravation take into account when determining sentence. This is by no means a comprehensive list, however it does demonstrate the variety of factors, which must be considered before a sentence is give, a hard-task. One, which at every stage must balance the aims of the punishment, with the influences of the individual, and society's need for a human, fair system of criminal justice. Katherine Miller - The Penal System Essay 1 ...read more.

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