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Penal Populism, Sentencing Councils and Sentencing Policy

Penal Populism, Sentencing Councils and Sentencing Policy

Edited by Arie Freiberg and Karen Gelb


With particular emphasis on the emerging role of sentencing commissions, advisory councils or panels in a number of English speaking countries, this book brings together the theoretical perspectives on the role of the public in the development of sentencing policy.

Freiberg and Gelb expand and develop the existing literature that looks at public attitudes to justice and the role that the “public” can play in influencing policy. It asks the critical questions: even if “public opinion”, or preferably, “public judgment” can be ascertained in relation to a particular sentencing issue, should it be relevant to court decision-making, to institutional decision-making and to the political process? And if so, how?

For the first time, descriptions and analyses of new and proposed sentencing advisory bodies in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Scotland and South Africa are outlined and provided. Further, it adds to the knowledge in the field of public opinion by presenting practical examples of ways in which the public has a role in sentencing – illustrating the implementation of recommendations that have been made in existing research over the past few years. These recommendations have focussed on ways to improve public knowledge about the criminal justice system in order to counter political platforms and public outcries that are based on misinformation and misconceptions about the criminal justice system and in particular, about the nature of current sentencing practice.

The book is structured in two parts. Part 1 deals with general matters relating to public opinion: our knowledge of what it is or purports to be, and how that influences or shapes sentencing policy. Part 2 deals with the development, and nature of, sentencing councils and their roles vis a vis the public, government and courts.


Penal populism: sentencing councils and sentencing policy
Arie Freiberg and Karen Gelb
Sentencing policy and practice: the evolving role of public opinion
Julian V Roberts
Penal scandal in New Zealand
John Pratt
Dealing the public in: challenges for a transparent and accountable sentencing policy
David Indermaur
Myths and misconceptions: public opinion versus public judgment about sentencing
Karen Gelb
The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines
Richard S Frase
The United States Sentencing Commission
Judge Nancy Gertner
English sentencing guidelines in their public and political context
Andrew Ashworth
The New South Wales Sentencing Council
The Hon Alan Abadee AM RFD QC
The Sentencing Commission for Scotland
Neil Hutton
The Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council: incorporating community views into the sentencing process
Arie Freiberg
A perspective on the work of the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council and its potential to promote respect and equality for women
Thérèse McCarthy
Sentencing reform in New Zealand: a proposal to establish a sentencing council
Warren Young
A sentencing council in South Africa
Stephan Terblanche
A federal sentencing council for Australia
Australian Law Reform Commission
Institutional mechanisms for incorporating the public
Neil Hutton
Does it matter? Reflections on the effectiveness of institutionalised public participation in the development of sentencing policy
Rob Allen and Mike Hough


Penal Populism analyses a wealth of timely, thought-provoking and trend-setting studies which are essential to gaining a full understanding of this important issue in contemporary criminology. (See full review in Supplement below.)

The Hon Mr Justice Gilles Renaud, Ontario Court of Justice, Cornwall, Ontario

This fascinating analysis of the sentencing advisory groups discloses their directives and personnel, their successes and failures and their support from the judiciary and governments. ...
Their similarity of purpose is the 'balance the various interests of the judiciary, the public politicians - and the media' and to carefully create 'fair and thoughtful' sentencing policies.

Victims' Voice, September 2008


Review by The Hon Mr Justice Gilles Renaud, Ontario Court of Justice, Cornwall, Ontario


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Published 1 February 2008
Publisher Hawkins Press
ISBN 9781876067212
Australian RRP $59.95
International Price $55.00
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Criminology & Policing - Penology & Sentencing

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