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Sentencing: guidelines, purposes and types of sentence

There is another video for you to watch on the Sentencing Council’s website.

As you watch the video, you could consider the questions posed for you below. They are just there to help you to structure your thinking and to help you to get the most out of the video. You do not need to answer any or all of them directly - but you are welcome to use any of them as a basis to contribute to a discussion with your colleagues if you like.

The introductory section of the video sets the context for sentencing and refers to the concept of seriousness with which you are probably becoming more familiar. It also alludes to some purposes of sentencing - victim satisfaction, and stopping offenders from repeating their offending behaviour.

  • How are those purposes reflected in the law? (Consider sections 142 and 143 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which you have reviewed in previous steps this week.)

Section 1 of the video refers to the idea of the punishment fitting the crime. You might recall that Matt Matravers also uses this phrase in his earlier video.

  • What does ‘the punishment must fit the crime’ actually mean?
  • What is the other benefit of sentencing guidelines which this section of the video identifies?

Section 2 of the video discusses the factors which will affect a sentencing decision. You have come across some of these already, and you will see that again, the discussion starts from the issue of seriousness.

  • Why are those with previous convictions treated more harshly?
  • What purposes of sentencing does such harsher treatment reflect?
  • Are you as positive as the video voiceover about the guilty plea discount? Why (not)?
  • What purposes of sentencing are being referred to (albeit not by name) in the final part of this section of the video at 3m 36s to 3m 53s?

Section 3 of the video discusses the principal types of sentence: imprisonment; community sentences; fines; and discharges.

  • What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of the general position on imprisonment being that half the sentence is served in prison, with the second half on licence?
  • What does being on licence mean and what happens if you breach your licence?
  • What purposes of sentencing purposes does the video identify as being met by community sentences?
  • How is the level of a fine set?
  • Do you think that a richer person should be fined more than a poorer person if they committed the same offence? Why (not)?
  • What is a discharge and how does it work?

Do feel free to discuss any of your thoughts on these questions with your colleagues.

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This article is from the free online course:

From Crime to Punishment: an Introduction to Criminal Justice

University of York