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Juror and community views of the guilty plea sentencing discount: findings from a national Australian study


Warner, K and Spiranovic, C and Bartels, L and Roberts, L and Gelb, K, Juror and community views of the guilty plea sentencing discount: findings from a national Australian study, Criminology & Criminal Justice, 22, (1) pp. 78-96. ISSN 1748-8958 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 the authors. Accepted for publication in Criminology & Criminal Justice.

DOI: doi:10.1177/1748895820956703


A plea of guilty is a long-accepted factor mitigating sentence in many countries, including Australia, although academic debate over the merits and application of the discount is ongoing. This paper presents findings from a national Australian study on public opinion on the guilty plea sentencing discount, with a particular focus on sexual offences. Survey data were drawn from 989 jurors in cases that resulted in a guilty verdict and 450 unempanelled jurors and 306 online respondents who were provided with vignettes based on real cases. A third of the respondents would have supported a discount in their case if the offender had pleaded guilty. In contrast, more than one half of the respondents surveyed, who had received a vignette with a guilty plea scenario, supported an increment in sentence if the offender had gone to trial. There was more support for a discount in cases involving non-sexual violent offences versus sexual offences and adult versus child victims. Where a discount was supported, this most commonly was a reduction in the length of custodial sentence, with online respondents allocating the least generous discounts. Willingness to accept a sentencing discount was predicted by a range of variables including gender, education, punitive attitudes, offence type and offence seriousness. We conclude by considering the implications of our findings for sentencing law and practice.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:guilty plea discount, sentencing and public opinion, sex offence sentencing
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Criminology
Research Field:Courts and sentencing
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the law
Objective Field:Criminal justice
UTAS Author:Warner, K (Professor Kate Warner)
UTAS Author:Spiranovic, C (Dr Caroline Spiranovic)
ID Code:140876
Year Published:2022 (online first 2020)
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:Law
Deposited On:2020-09-14
Last Modified:2022-01-05
Downloads:17 View Download Statistics

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