Penal System

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  1. General principles of sentencing
    • The main aims of sentencing are set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which are:
    • Punishment
    • to reduce crime
    • for public protection
    • for reparation
  2. Punishment
    • Retribution for wrong-doin, society's revenge for the offence 'Let the punishment fit the crime'. It is based on proportionality or 'just desserts'. The Sentencing Council produces guidelines on tariff sentences to reflect this aim
    • It also contains an element of denunciation - society's outrage at the offence committed
  3. Reduction of crime
    This includes both deterrence and rehabilitation
  4. Deterence
    • Deterrence has two types - individual and general
    • Individual - this is aimed at a particular offender to put him/her off re-offending by either a very severe sentence, e.g. custodial sentence or a fine,
    • By the threat of imprisionment, e.g. a suspended sentence or conditional discharge
    • General - this is aimed at putting society off committing crimes by exemplary sentences or minimum sentences.
    • These are not concerned with fairness and may be harsher than the usual tariff for the offence so they can lead to injustice in particular cases, e.g. very severe sentences for the theft of mobiles on the street
  5. Rehabilitation
    • This aims to reform the offender to stop them re-offending. It is focused on the longer term, looking at the potential of the offender to reform.
    • It is now accepted that custodial sentences only have very limited rehabilitative effect and community orders are more likely to be used to achieve this aim.
  6. Protection of the public
    Preventing the offender from re-offending. Curfews and custodial sentences may be used
  7. Reparation
    considers the victim when sentencing the offender. Compensation orders are used to make the offender make amends to the victim
  8. Other factors that would need to be taken into account when looking at sentencing.
    • aggravating factors make the sentence more severe
    • mitgating factors make the sentence more lenient
    • the seriousness of the crime
    • antecedents (previous records) of the offender, including any reports
    • motive
    • early guilty plea (this reduces the sentence by up to a third)
    • sentencing guidelines/tariff
  9. Powers of the courts
    • Sentences available for adults
    • Community sentences for adults
    • fines and other sentences for adults
    • custodial sentences available for young offenders
    • community sentences available for young offenders
    • fines and other sentences
  10. Sentences available for adults
    • Under the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) 2003 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, custodial available for adults include:
    • mandatory life sentences, which is the only sentence available for murder if over 18 years old. Minimum term to be served before release on licence range from whole life to 15 years. Tariff set out in CJA 2003
    • Discretionary life sentences are available for other serious offences but the judge has discretion in imposing a lesser sentence if it is more appropriate
    • Fixed term sentences where there is automatic release after half sentence is served. Only available if over 21 years old
    • Home dentenion curfew - early release from prision on a curfew
    • Indeterminate sentence for dangerous offenders for public protection
    • Extended sentences - custodial sentences up to the maximum for the crime followed by an extension period on licence
    • Minimum sentences for dealing in Class A drugs or a third burglary of a residential building
    • Suspended sentence of 28-51 weeks suspended for up to two years - sentence only has to be served if the offender commits further offences.
  11. Community sentences for adults
    • Generic 'Community Order' Under the CJA 2003 which can include a range of 12 requirements for offenders over the age of 18. These can be mixed and matched
    • Unpaid work Requirement - unpaid work in the community (40-300 hours)
    • Supervision Requirement - the offender is put under the supervision of a probation officer
    • Drug treatment and testing requirement
    • Curfew Requirement - for a certain number of hours a day the offender has to be in a specific place (may include electronic tagging)
  12. Fines and other sentences for adults
    • Fines unlimited in the Crown Court; £5,000 in the Magistrates' Court
    • Absolute and Conditional Dischargers
    • Disqualification from driving
  13. Custodial sentences available for young offenders
    • Dentention at Her Majesty's pleasure for muder if offender is 10-17 years old. An indeterminate sentence; the judge will recommend a minimum term
    • Young Offender's Instituions for offenders aged 18-20. This can be from 21 days up to the maximum for the offence. Offender will be transferred to adult prision if they turn 21 before release date
    • Detention and training order for offenders aged 12-17 years, but only for persistent offenders. If aged under 15, the duration is from 4 to 24 months
    • Detention for very serious crimes is available, allowing a young person to be detained for longer - up to the maximum for the offence
  14. Community sentence available for young offenders
    • The Youth Rehabilitation Order, brought in by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, includes a range of 18 requirements that can be attached to it. This is similar to the Community Order but for 10-18 year olds. Some of these requirements are listed below:
    • Activity requirement
    • Attendance centre requirement
    • Supervision requirement (supervision by local social services, a probation officer or a member of the Youth Offending Team)
    • Unpaid work requirement only available if D is 16 years old or older on conviction
    • A programme requirement
    • An education requirement
    • A local authority residence requirement
    • Mental health treatment requirement
    • Drug testing requirement
  15. Fines and other sentences
    • Fines - will depend on the defendant's age 10-13 years, maximum fine £250; 14-17 years, maximum fine £1,000; over 18, same adult
    • ASBOs
    • Discharges, reprimands and warnings
  16. Custodial Sentences Advantages
    • Offenders cannot commit crimes when in prision so it protects the public
    • Opportunity to rehabilitate offenders
  17. Custodial Sentences Disadvantages
    • Over 65% ex-prisoners usually re-offend within two years and 80% of young offenders, so rehabilitation seems to be lacking
    • Prisoners can learn new ideas for committing crimes from other prisioners
    • Budget cuts and overcrowded prisons prevent any effective rehabilitation
    • The stigma of prison means opportunities to get employment after coming out is limited, pushing ex-offenders back into crime
    • There is family breakdown and many ex-prisoners become homeless
    • prison is very expensive - three weeks in prison costs more than a whole year of a community order
    • Many people who should not be in prison are put there - e.g. for non-payment of fines or council tax. Non-violent offenders, asylum seekers and people on remand could be dealt with more effectively and cheaply in the community
    • Most other European countries only have a third of our prison population in proportion to their total population
    • Conditions in prison are poor and suicide rates are high
    • Sir David Ramsbotham, who was Cheif Inspector of Prisons, claimed that the prison population could be cut in half if you took away young people, the eldery, the mentally ill, asylum seekers and those inside for trivial shoplifting and drug offences.
  18. Community Sentences Advantages
    • less disruptive than custody as offender keeps living with family and can continue job
    • Most offenders given supervision orders find them useful as it allows them to talk through their problems and confront their behaviour
    • Much cheaper than custody
    • Unpaid work gives offenders a sense of achievement
    • Taggings is effective at keeping offenders out of trouble and protecting the public, is much cheaper than prison and as the technology improves should remove the need for imprisonment for many offenders
  19. Community Sentences Disadvantages
    • Taggings can be seen as degrading to the offender - though is less degrading than improvement
    • Re-offending rates are still quite high
    • Crime prevention is more likely to lower crime rates than any type of sentence as offenders never think they will get caught
  20. Fines advantages
    • brings in revenue to the court
    • A quick penalty for minor crime
    • linked to ability to pay
  21. Fine disadvantages
    • Problems collecting fines - magistrates do not always use their powers to collect fines from pay or benefits and send people to prison for non-payment
    • Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, a person can do unpaid work to pay of a fine at £6 per hour but supervising this is also expensive
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Penal System
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