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Joe’s sentencing

Video animation of the sentencing process
The jury has returned their verdict. Joe has been found guilty of malicious infliction of grievous bodily harm on Derek Simpson. It is now the judge’s job to pass sentence on Joe. Before that happens, the judge may adjourn the case – that means the case may be put on hold to another day – to allow a probation officer to put together a pre-sentence report. This report will consider Joe’s background and whether there are any personal circumstances which would affect the nature of the sentence which should be given to him. Joe’s barrister’s job is now to try to encourage the court to treat Joe as leniently as possible. This is referred to as making a plea in mitigation.
The judge cannot just impose any sentence they might like. The law prescribes a maximum sentence – for Joe’s offence the maximum penalty is 5 years’ imprisonment. In deciding what sentence to give Joe the judge takes into account Sentencing Guidelines. The key issue the judge has to consider is the seriousness of Joe’s offence. These guidelines tell the judge how to take into account certain factors relevant to determining seriousness. So, how much harm has been caused by Joe’s offence? How blameworthy is he? Are there any aggravating or mitigating factors? Having read the pre-sentence report, listened to the plea in mitigation, and considered the issues raised in the Sentencing Guidelines, the judge is ready to sentence Joe.

We’re still in the courtroom with Joe and we’ll use this animation to try to get an idea of some important aspects of the sentencing process.

As with the trial process, try to get a sense of who does what. You can see that the jury has gone – their job is done. You can also see how the role of the lawyer is now slightly different from what it was at the trial stage: the question is now not whether Joe has committed an offence, but how to deal with him now it has been established that he has done so.

You’ll see that the judge has a key role, and ultimately, will decide what the sentence will be. At this stage, try to get a sense of the resources and information which the judge has available to help structure their thoughts about what sentence to impose.

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From Crime to Punishment: an Introduction to Criminal Justice

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