What Are the Main Aims and Objectives of Sentencing Within England and Wales? Should Any One Theory Dominate?

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What are the main aims and objectives of sentencing within England and Wales? Should any one theory dominate?

What are the main aims and objectives of sentencing within England and Wales? Should any one theory dominate? In the criminal justice system, there are many different sentences that can be given to an offender. According to the sentencing statistics in England and Wales (2009) the highest sentence being given is financial penalties with 67.3% of convicted offenders being given a fine, 14% received community service and 7.2% of offenders were sentenced to prison. The type and length of a sentence largely depends upon the seriousness of the committed offence and the offender behind it. This essay will look at the main aims and objectives of sentencing, as well as the different theories used within sentencing. Within this essay the question of whether or not a sentence should aim to prevent further crimes or punish offenders as they deserve, will too be discussed. A further factor of this essay will look at influential factors within sentencing and the complications that would arise if the system was to be dominated by one theory. To conclude it has been found that one theory simply cannot dominate sentencing within England and Wales as the majority of sentences are tailored around each individual offence and offender, therefore there cannot be a set sentence for a set crime. According to the Criminal Justice Act (2003) there are five main purposes of sentencing an offender. The first is to punish the offender; also known as denunciation. This is the acknowledgement that the behaviour of the offender is not acceptable within society and ensures a consequent punishment. This can be seen as a form of paying back the wrong doing or understanding of what is right and wrong. However Ashworth (2005) arises the underlying question on how this does so and why punishment is seen as an appropriate response to criminal behaviour. The second is to reduce crime this includes its reduction by deterrence. Ashworth (1999) claimed that deterrence aimed to prevent crime by future offenders and the offender in question, by not committing an offence due to fearing the consequent punishment. This can take the form of individual or general deterrence. The next purpose of sentencing is to reform and rehabilitate the offender, this is achieved through many different methods such as; counseling or group therapy. The purpose of this is to change the offenders’ attitudes and behaviours so they desist from crime. (Ashworth 1999) Rehabilitation may also address prior reasons as to why the offender may of committed the offence in the first place and teach the offender to deal with these in an acceptable way. The fourth aim of sentencing is to protect the public from both the offender and further crimes. This is known as incapacitation, the idea of removing the ability from the offender to commit a crime for a length of time, for example; being in prison or under house arrest. Finally the last purpose of sentencing is for the offender to make amends to the persons affected by their actions. This idea can also be known as restorative. This aims to give an appropriate sentence to the offender, whilst ensuring a balance with the appeasement of the victim. This can be in the form of the offender having to give some sort of financial compensation to the victim or affected persons.

When deciding on an appropriate sentence for an offender there are two main theories that dominate. These theories individually question whether or not it is best to punish the offender or treat the offender. Retributivism is the first, otherwise known as backward looking, and secondly is Reductivism, know as forward looking. Retributivism is the idea that an offenders’ punishment should fit the crime that was committed. Otherwise referred to as ‘an eye for an eye’ approach. Proportionality is the essence of the retributivist theory. Von Hirsch (1981) quoted...
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