Research and analysis

The public's understanding and views of sentencing and the criminal justice system

The ‘You be the Judge’ (YBTJ) website aims to show how judges and magistrates decide on the sentences they pass.

Documents

Supplementary tables - Analysis of complete ‘You be the Judge’ website experiences #YouBeTheJudge

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Supplementary tables - Attitudes to Sentencing and Trust in Justice - Exploring Trends from the Crime Survey for England and Wales

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Details

Three reports, and supplementary data, exploring perceptions and understanding of sentencing, and confidence in the criminal justice system.

Analysis of complete ‘You be the Judge’ website experiences #YouBeTheJudge

The ‘You be the Judge’ (YBTJ) website aims to show how judges and magistrates decide on the sentences they pass. It asks for users’ views of sentencing before and after hearing a court case during which they pass their own sentence and find out what the correct sentence would have been. This report analyses the 74,000 complete user experiences of YBTJ to look at the sentences passed and how views changed.

This report examines attitudes to, and perceptions of, sentencing and the criminal justice system (CJS) in England and Wales. The analysis focuses on perceptions of trust and confidence in justice, as well as presenting findings on knowledge about sentencing and crime trends and attitudes toward sentencing.

Based on Crime Survey for England and Wales (2010/11) data, findings show that most people thought that the courts were too lenient, and underestimated the severity of current sentencing practices and were relatively lenient when expressing a sentencing preference for a specific (hypothetical) case.

Levels of public confidence in the CJS vary greatly, depending upon the specific function of criminal justice. People expressed much less confidence in the effectiveness of the CJS than in its fairness. Contact with the police and experiences of crime and disorder emerged as the most consistent predictors of trust and confidence in both the police and the CJS. Many other variables tested were important predictors, for example gender, age and knowledge about the CJS.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) is a nationally representative face-to-face household survey; the main purpose is to measure the extent and nature of criminal victimisation. However the CSEW also includes questions on a range of other areas relating to victimisation, crime and the CJS.

Communicating Sentencing: exploring new ways to explain adult sentences

This exploratory study explored new ways to explain adult sentencing to the public to improve understanding of sentences. The study analysed the public’s understanding of sentencing and found there is confusion over terminology and how sentences are structured. Development workshops, in-depth interviews and follow-up phone calls were used to create and validate a simple consistent framework that split sentences into three parts – time in custody, the community and conditions in the community. The participants reported that the framework provides greater clarity and certainty of meaning, which helped to address misunderstandings and ensure a greater understanding of adult sentences.

Published 24 May 2013