Critically evaluate the aims and consequences of sentencing and show how the laws regarding sentencing currently stand in England and Wales.

Authors Avatar

Lisa Shaw                13/11/2003

Criminal Justice: Assignment 1

In this assignment I intend to critically evaluate the aims and consequences of sentencing and show how the laws regarding sentencing currently stand in England and Wales. I will show how sentencing an offender works, and how judges come to their decisions. I also intend to show what the aims of sentencing set out to achieve.

Sentencing is a particularly important aspect in the Criminal Justice System in operation within England and Wales. It must be determined, to define what sentencing does, what it can do what it could achieve and whether or not it endorses the aims it is given.

At present, there is not one specific aim of the Criminal Justice System. According to the current Home Office Statement which has been released, the aims of the Criminal Justice System is “to build a safe, just and tolerant society, in which rights and responsibilities of individuals, families and communities are balanced, and the protection and security of the public are maintained”.

There are many opinions as to what sentences are actually meant to achieve. Punishment is categorised as guilt, blame, pain or humiliation. Many of the general public believe that a sentence should be passed to punish an offender although in some cases this may not necessarily be the correct sentence to pass. In Tyrer v United Kingdom (1978) A 26, Eur Ct of H.R the question of whether corporate punishment in the Isle of Man violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights was raised. The court felt that in this case, birching the 15yr old boy for handling stolen goods, the definition of suffering was not severe enough, however it was severe enough to be humiliating to the victim, and that this notion of corporal punishment went beyond humiliation.

Obviously, a sentence should reflect the guilt of the offender and also the seriousness of his/her crime. However this brings about some consistency problems as not everyone has the same opinions on things, and therefore no two sentences will ever be alike. This is also because age, mental awareness and circumstances all need to be taken into consideration when passing a sentence. Mental awareness is, in particular, a major aspect to take into consideration. If an offender does not have the Mens Rea when he commits the offence then it may be for the courts to decide that the offender would be better to serve their time with a hospital order rather than a custodial order.

Another issue which needs to be raised is whether or not punishment should deter the offender and society at large. I believe that certain aspects of this are completely down to the offender. Certain people will commit a crime once and getting caught will deter them from ever doing it again. However, others, especially those that have been in and out of prison, may not benefit from any type of deterrence for the simple fact that they do not care enough about what the consequences are if and when they get caught.

Join now!

Jeremy Bentham discusses general deterrence and believes that sentencing should be fairer and that it should aim to achieve general deterrence, but there are some crimes which general deterrence does not apply to. Murder, for example, is not usually a thought out crime. People do not fail to commit murder because they think of the punishment, because usually murder is an opportunistic crime.

The ‘Just Deserts’ approach currently in force in England and Wales aims to strike a balance between the seriousness of the offence and the severity of the sentence to be imposed. It was bought in ...

This is a preview of the whole essay