Why is sentencing is large part of our justice system?

Criminal Justice Act 2003

Section 142 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that any court dealing with an adult offender must consider the following reasons for passing a sentence; 

  • The punishment of the offender for breaking the law
  • To reduce the levels of criminal activity
  • To reform and rehabilitate previous offenders back into society
  • To protect the public from harm and crime
  • To put right and compensate the victims of the crime

Punishing offenders

The concept of punishment is used to show offenders that their behaviour is unacceptable and to provide justice to the victims of their crimes and society as a whole. This may also be called retribution, the revenge that society and victims can take from the offender.

The reduction of crime

Crime is something society wishes to completely eradicate. By imposing sentences on offenders as a form of punishment for their actions it takes on a deterrent effect. If society can see that when people break the law and act against the conformity of society then they may be ‘put off’ offending in the future, whether this is a first time offender or a repeat offender.  

Deterrence can take two forms. Individual deterrence, which will discourage a particular person from committing future crimes, or, general deterrence which will act as warning to society that illegal behaviour will not be tolerated and will be punished.  

The only problem with using sentencing as a deterrent is that where murder holds a very severe punishment and sentence, this will not deter a petty car thief and vice versa.

Reform and rehabilitating offenders back into society

The purpose of rehabilitating offenders is to reform their character so it is safe for them to return to society.  If a person understands their actions are wrong and illegal and that this behaviour attracts punishment they are less likely to re-offend in the future. If a person, for example, is released from prison with the belief that his actions were not wrong, he is more likely to return to society and re-offend with the same behaviour.

Protecting the public from criminal activities and violence

When a person is sentenced, such as a custodial sentence, they can no longer re-f

Offender and the public at large are therefore safe from danger. This is a much needed protocol in relation to dangerous offenders and repeated offenders. The only downside to using sentencing for this purpose is that this is a very expensive way of dealing with crime prevention. This is even more of a problem today due to the over-crowding in prisons across the UK.

Putting right the wrongs

One of the largest benefits of sentencing is that the victims and families of the victims can recoup damages from the hardship suffered as a result of the offender’s criminal actions. Sentencing forces offenders to remedy the victims of their crimes and the public at large even if they do not wish to do so. This has greatly aided victim satisfaction and has had an impact of reducing the rates of offenders that re-offend on release.