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Custody or community: exploring the boundaries of public punitiveness in England and Wales

Roberts, J.V. and Hough, Mike (2011) Custody or community: exploring the boundaries of public punitiveness in England and Wales. Criminology & Criminal Justice 11 (2), pp. 181-197. ISSN 1748-8958.

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Determining the factors which make a difference between a custodial sentence and a community penalty is one of the most challenging decisions for sentencers. Little research to date has explored the nature of public reaction to mitigating factors and the circumstances which may justify imposition of a community penalty even though the custodial threshold has been crossed. This article reports findings from a representative survey of the British public. Respondents were asked a series of questions designed to explore public reaction to sentencing cases at the custodial threshold. Public opinion polls suggest that the public respond punitively at sentencing, and have little sympathy for mitigating factors relating to the offender. In a series of questions, using experimental manipulations, respondents demonstrated considerable flexibility when sentencing cases near the custodial threshold. Significant support emerged for a wide range of mitigating factors at sentencing. The strength of public support for custody as a sanction was also explored by providing respondents who had imposed a term of imprisonment a possible alternative community penalty. Significant proportions of respondents found the alternative acceptable, even for relatively serious offences.

Item Type: Article
School: Birkbeck Schools and Departments > School of Law
Research Centre: Criminal Policy Research, Institute for
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2011 09:51
Last Modified: 05 Dec 2016 16:23

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