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    Information and punitiveness: trial reconstruction in Ireland

    Sato, M. and Hough, Mike (2015) Information and punitiveness: trial reconstruction in Ireland. Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice 1 (2), pp. 90-98. ISSN 2056-3841.

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    Purpose of this paper: to report results from a rape trial reconstruction in Ireland Design/methodology/approach: A studio audience of 100 members of the Irish public were selected to attend a TV programme by the Republic of Ireland’s national broadcasting organisation (RTÉ). This involved the examination of the sentencing of a rape case. The audience’s sentencing preferences were measured at the outset, when they had been given only summary information about the case, and later, when full details had been disclosed. Findings: Previous research examining changes in public attitudes to crime and punishment has shown that deliberation, including the provision of new information and discussion with others and experts, tends to decrease public punitiveness and increase public leniency towards sentencing. An experiment in Ireland, however, showed that providing information does not invariably and necessarily moderate punitive attitudes. This article presents the results, and offers some explanations for the anomalous outcome. Research limitations: The pre/post design, in which the audience served as their own controls, is a weak one, and participants may have responded to what they took to be the agenda of the producers. - Due to the quality of the sample, the results may not be generalizable to the broader Irish population. Practical implications: - Policy makers should recognise that the public is not uniformly punitive for all crimes. There is good research evidence to show that the apparent public appetite for tough punishment is illusory, and is a function of the way that polls measure public attitudes to punishment. - However the ‘information hypothesis’ is too often stated in overly simple terms, that fuller and more accurate information about specific cases necessarily moderates public punitiveness. - The experiment presented here serves as a counter-example, showing that a sample of the public failed to moderate their views when given fuller information about a rape case involving serious violence and a vulnerable victim. - Sentencers and those responsible for sentencing policy would benefit from a fuller understanding of the sorts of cases which illicit strong punitive responses from the public, and the reasons for this response. - However any such understanding should not simply translate into responsiveness to the public’s punitive sentiments – where these exist. What is original/value of paper: There have been limited research studies which reports factors which may increase punitiveness through the provision of information and deliberation.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Justice, Sentencing, Victims, Evidence based practice, Courts, Custody
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Research Centres and Institutes: Crime & Justice Policy Research, Institute for
    Depositing User: Mike Hough
    Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2015 08:15
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:17


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