Five key areas of sentencing in criminal law
“Retribution is the heart of just about all judicial systems that deal with law and order. To the extent that punishment is supposed to fit the crime, retributive justice can be distinguished from revenge in the sense that defendants are expected to give up something in return for the offenses they committed.”
In plain language, this is not “eye for eye” revenge. Rather it is a judgement of sentencing of the court delivering punishment for a criminal act. The process of a trial calculates and determines this punishment. Punishment will usually take away certain freedoms and rights. It will often be imprisonment. Several factors will determine the length of imprisonment. These include the seriousness of the criminal acts and the maximum penalty at law.
Deterrence is one of the primary objectives of criminal law. The goal of deterrence is to discourage members of society from committing criminal laws. Fear of punishment is the discouragement. Deterrence is only effective if a person has the capacity to reflect. That is, if they can understand the consequences of committing a crime, including retributive justice. Deterrence may be general, or specific to an individual. In some cases, the court may take into account a person’s intellectual, psychological and medical circumstances. Such matters may moderate the importance of deterrence in sentencing.
One of the major obstacles for deterrence in criminal justice is that most offenders commit crimes without premeditation. People commit crimes in the heat of the moment. Therefore, they are not thinking about retribution and sentencing at that precise moment. The aim of criminal justice is to educate the greater community. It does this by demonstrating that all criminal acts will be punished. Authorities will catch all those who offend, and punish them.
In criminal justice, incapacitation is restricting a persons’ freedoms as punishment for their criminal act. Incapacitation removes offenders from society and restrains them in a purpose-built facility. This prevents them from committing any further crimes. Incapacitation cannot rectify past crimes; however, it does prevent future crimes.
The form of incapacitation will depend on the criminal acts. It will also depend on the seriousness and prevalence of the offence. Incapacitation can take the form of imprisonment or Community Correction Orders. The process of a trial and judgement determines the type of incapacitation and sentences the criminal accordingly. Many offences may not warrant incapacitation (imprisonment).
Rehabilitation is a central goal of the judicial and correctional systems. Once a person has been sentenced and convicted they may be offered rehabilitative programs in a correctional facility. These programs aim to identify addictions, injuries, mental illnesses and other obstacles. Such factors may have contributed to the criminal acts. Professionals work with the prisoner to correct and redirect them for a positive outcome. The ultimate aim of rehabilitation programs is to reintegrate prisoners into the community so they can live there harmoniously.
Rehabilitation programs vary in intensity, direction and style of treatment. They can be a long, costly and exhaustive process. However, the results speak for themselves.
The courts may take it into account if offenders are rehabilitated before sentencing.
Restorative justice varies from conventional criminal justice. It highlights that criminal acts do not only offend against the state but have a lasting effect on families and communities. The aim of restorative justice is to repair relationships. It aims for criminals to accept accountability and feel remorse for their criminal acts. Remorse should be not only for the criminal acts but for how they affected the victims and members of the community.
Criminal law has a purpose, which is to combine the above areas cumulatively. It aims to identify, acknowledge, punish and educate the greater community and would-be offenders about the consequences of their actions.
Slades and Parsons Solicitors are highly experienced in all aspects of criminal law. For further assistance please do not hesitate to contact our office.