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Are Judges out of touch?


Warner, K and Davis, J and Walter, MM and Spiranovic, CA, Are Judges out of touch?, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 25, (3) pp. 729-744. ISSN 1034-5329 (2014) [Refereed Article]

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Media claims and public opinion surveys suggest that there is a popular perception that judges are out of touch with what ordinary people think. This view is linked with punitiveness and confidence in the courts; those who think that judges are out of touch are also more likely to think that sentences are too lenient and less likely to have confidence in the courts. This article reports on a mixed methods study of the views of jurors, analysing data emanating from the question: ‘How in touch do you think judges are with public opinion on sentencing?’ The findings provide a striking contrast with those from public surveys. Most jurors in the quantitative phase did not agree that judges were out of touch with public opinion on sentencing. Some of those who did think that judges were out of touch indicated in qualitative interviews that this was not necessarily a criticism, or suggested that ‘being out of touch’ did not apply to the judge in their trial. The implication we draw from these results is that the findings from public opinion surveys suggesting that judges are out of touch need to be viewed with caution, rather than being treated as evidence of the need for constraints on judicial discretion and the introduction of harsher sentences. More broadly, we show the importance of employing mixed research methods that can uncover more fully the range and depth of public opinion.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
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:Walter, MM (Professor Maggie Walter)
UTAS Author:Spiranovic, CA (Dr Caroline Spiranovic)
ID Code:91400
Year Published:2014
Deposited By:Faculty of Law
Deposited On:2014-05-16
Last Modified:2017-11-02
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