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Gauging public opinion on sentencing: can asking jurors help?


Warner, K and Davis, J and Walter, MM and Bradfield, RJ and Vermey, R, Gauging public opinion on sentencing: can asking jurors help?, Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, (371) pp. 1-6. ISSN 0817-8542 (2009) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2009 Australian Institute of Criminology

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Using jurors to ascertain public opinion on sentencing has a number of advantages over other methods. Jurorsí opinions are based on informed judgements rather than uninformed, intuitive responses and they have detailed knowledge of the offence and a sense of the offender as a real person. Using a sample of jurors from Tasmanian courts, this study examined the utility of using jurors to gauge public opinion on sentencing and as a means of informing the public about crime and sentencing issues. Results indicate that the opinion of jurors towards sentences is not as punitive as public opinion polls would suggest and it would appear that specific knowledge of a case may moderate harsher sentencing attitudes. While there is evidence that jury participation increases confidence in the criminal justice system, the study found that pre-existing perceptions about lenient sentencing may be difficult to change. This was particularly the case when it came to sentencing for sex offences, where jurors were least satisfied with sentencing severity. The study determined that despite there being potential issues around obtaining truly representative population samples, surveying jurors as a means of ascertaining informed public opinion about sentencing seems a good option. A useful view of the general publicís opinion on appropriate penalty levels for particular crimes can be elicited, along with their knowledge of crime and sentencing matters.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:sentencing, public attitude, juror opinion
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:Legal systems
Research Field:Access to justice
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Other culture and society
Objective Field:Other culture and society not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Warner, K (Professor Kate Warner)
UTAS Author:Walter, MM (Professor Maggie Walter)
UTAS Author:Bradfield, RJ (Dr Rebecca Bradfield)
UTAS Author:Vermey, R (Ms Rachel Vermey)
ID Code:59354
Year Published:2009
Deposited By:Sociology and Social Work
Deposited On:2009-11-30
Last Modified:2012-12-13
Downloads:3 View Download Statistics

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