The prinicples behind setencing are set out in Section 142 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and are as follows:

  • Retribution
  • General Deterrence
  • Individual Deterrence
  • Rehabilitation
  • Reparation
  • Denunciation
  • Reparation
  • Protection of the Public
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Aims of Sentencing


  • Punishment imposed in proportion to the seriousness of the crime; punishment because it is deserved.
  • Tariff sentences

Individual Deterrence 

  • The offender is deterred through the fear of further punishment
  • Prison sentences and heavy fines

General Deterrence

  • Potential offenders are warned as to the likely punishment
  • Long sentence as an example to others


  • Aims to reform the offender's behaviour
  • Individualised sentences and community orders
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Aims of Sentencing Cont.

Protection of the Public

  • Offender is made incapable of comitting further crime and society is therefore protected
  • Long prison sentences, curfews with tagging and banning orders


  • Repayment and reparation to the victim and the community
  • Compensation orders, unpaid work and reparation schemes


  • Society expresses its disapproval towards the crime
  • Reinforces moral boundaries
  • Publicity, unpaid work and "naming and shaming"
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Factors to be taken into consideration

There are a number of factors which will be taken into consideration when deciding on the severity of a sentence:

  • Aggravating factors - facts of the case that make the sentence more severe
  • Mitigating factors - facts of the case that make the sentence more lenient
  • The serious of the crime
  • Antecedents of the offender, including any reports 
  • Motive
  • Early guilty plea (can reduce the sentence by up to a third)
  • Sentencing guidelines/tariff
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Custodial Sentences available for Adults

Under the CJA 2003 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, custodial sentences available for adults include:

  • Mandatory life sentences - only sentence available for murder. Minimum term to be served before release on license ranges from whole life to 15 years.
  • Discretionary life sentences are available for other serious offences but the judge has the right to impose a lesser sentence if more appropriate
  • Fixed-term sentences where there is automatic release after half sentence is served. Only available if over 21
  • Home Detention Curfew - early release from prison with a curfew
  • Indeterminate sentences for dangerous offenders - public protection
  • Extended sentences - custodial sentences followed by an extension period on license
  • Minimum sentences for dealing in class A drugs or a third burglary of a residential building
  • Suspended sentence of 28-51 weeks suspended for up to two years - meaning the sentence only has to be served if the offender commits futher offences.
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Community Sentences and Other Sentences for Adults

Community Sentences:

  • Community Order under the CJA 2003 which can include a range of 12 requirements - can be mixed and matched
  • Unpaid work requirement - in community (40-300) hours
  • Supervision Requirement - the offender is put under the supervision of a probation officer
  • Drug treatment and testing requirement
  • Curfew requirement - may include electronic tagging

Other sentences:

  • Fines unlimited in Crown Court; Limited to £5,000 in Magistrates' Court
  • Absolute and Conditional Discharges
  • Disqualification from driving
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Custodial Sentences available for Young Offenders

  • Detention at Her Majesty's Pleasure for murder if offender is 10-17 years old - an indeterminate sentence, with the judge recommending a minimum term
  • Young Offender's Institutions for offenders 18-20 y.o - can be from 21 days up to a max for the offence; offender will be transferred to adult prison if 21 y.o before release date
  • Detention and training orders for offenders 12-17 y.o - only for persistent offenders. If under 15 then length ranges from 4 to 24 months 
  • Detention for very serious crimes is available, allowing a yound person to be detained for longer - up to a max for the offence
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Community Sentences and other sentences for Young

Youth Rehabilitation Order from the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 inlcudes a range of 18 requirements that can be attached to it. Similar to the adult Community Order.

  • Activity requirement
  • Attendance centre requirement 
  • Supervision requirement (local social services, probation officer or member of YO team)
  • Unpaid work requirement only available if over 16 years
  • Programme requirement
  • Education requirement
  • Local authority residence requirement
  • Mental health treatment requirement
  • Drug testing requirement

Other sentences:

  • Fines - dependent on the defendants age: 10-13 + max £250; 14-17 = max £1,000; 18+ = adult
  • ASBOs
  • Discharges, reprimands and warnings
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Custodial Sentence


  • Offenders cannot commit crimes in from prison so protects public
  • Opportunity to rehabilitate offenders


  • Over 65% reoffend within 2 years, 80% for YO
  • Prisoners mix with other criminals
  • Overcrowding
  • Lack of employment opportunities afterwards
  • Expensive 
  • Many prisoners should arguably not be there - eg asylum seekers and people on remand
  • 3 times the prison population of most other countries in Europe in the UK
  • Coniditions are poor and suicide rates are high
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Community Sentence


  • Less disruptive than custody as offender can stay in a job and with family.
  • Most offenders find supervision orders useful as they can help tackle their problems
  • Much cheaper than custody
  • Unpaid work gives offenders a sense of acheivement
  • Tagging effective as it keeps offenders out of trouble and protects the public, and it is much cheaper than prison


  • Tagging seen as degrading to the offender
  • Re-offending rates are still quite high
  • Crime prevention is more effective in reducing crime rates than any kind of sentence
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Advantages and Disadvantages of Fines


  • Brings in revenue for the courts
  • Quick and suitable for minor crimes


  • Fines are often not paid in full and Magistrates often end up resorting to custodial sentences for non payment
  • CJA 2003 states that unpaid work at £6 an hour can be used to pay off fines, but supervision of this is expensive.
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