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Using juries to educate and inform the public about crime and sentencing

Using juries to educate and inform the public about crime and sentencing. Faculty of Law. Research Team: Professor Kate Warner, Associate Professor Julia Davis, Dr Maggie Walter, Dr Rebecca Bradfield and Rachel Vermey. Outline of the paper. Why improve public knowledge? Methodology

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Using juries to educate and inform the public about crime and sentencing

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  1. Using juries to educate and inform the public about crime and sentencing Faculty of Law Research Team:Professor Kate Warner, Associate Professor Julia Davis, Dr Maggie Walter, Dr Rebecca Bradfield and Rachel Vermey Sentencing 2010 Conference

  2. Outline of the paper • Why improve public knowledge? • Methodology • Some results • Discussion Sentencing 2010 Conference

  3. Why improve public knowledge? • People have very little accurate knowledge about crime and sentencing • (Gelb, 2006 ) Sentencing 2010 Conference

  4. Those who have the lowest levels of knowledge have the most punitive views • The following misperceptions are associated with a belief that sentences are too lenient: • saying there is a lot more crime • over-estimating the proportion of recorded crime involving violence • estimating the number of convicted burglars imprisoned • (Hough and Roberts, 1999; Roberts and Indermaur, 2007) Sentencing 2010 Conference

  5. Ways of improving knowledge • Booklets, videos • Focus groups • Deliberative polls • Using juries? Sentencing 2010 Conference

  6. The aims of the study • To explore the use of jurors as a means of ascertaining public opinion • To investigate the usefulness of using the jury as a means of of informing the public about crime and sentencing issues Sentencing 2010 Conference

  7. Approach and methodology • Jurors listen to sentencing submissions • Fill in Questionnaire 1 • Jurors who consent receive • sentencing comments • crime and sentencing booklet • Questionnaire 2 • Interviews Sentencing 2010 Conference

  8. The Crime and Sentencing Booklet • CRIME • Has recorded crime increased or decreased • The proportion of crime that involves violence • Risk of becoming a victim • Clear up rates Sentencing 2010 Conference

  9. The Crime and Sentencing Booklet • SENTENCING • Purposes and limiting principles • Aggravating and mitigating factors • Sentencing options • Custody rate and sentencing ranges for rape, armed robbery, wounding, gbh and burglary • Sentencing range for offence tried Sentencing 2010 Conference

  10. Stage 1: Juror’s and judge’s sentence compared • 52% of jurors suggested a more lenient sentence • 4% of jurors suggested the same sentence • 44% of jurors suggested a more severe sentence Sentencing 2010 Conference

  11. Stage 1: Are current sentencing practices too tough or too lenient? Sentencing 2010 Conference

  12. Stage 1: Knowledge of crime and sentencing • Most perceived: • crime to be increasing • over-estimated the proportion of crime that involves violence • under-estimated the imprisonment rates for burglary and rape. Sentencing 2010 Conference

  13. Stage 2: How appropriate was the sentence? • 89.6% rated the judge’s sentence as appropriate • 50% as very appropriate • 44.6% as fairly appropriate • 10.4% rated the judge’s sentence as inappropriate • 8.8% as fairly inappropriate • 1.6% as very inappropriate Sentencing 2010 Conference

  14. Jurors views as to sentencing in general Sentencing 2010 Conference

  15. Sources of general attitudes Delta 1: ‘It’s just a perception. It’s not based on any facts. It’s a feeling.’ Sentencing 2010 Conference

  16. After the booklet: 1 Sentencing 2010 Conference

  17. After the booklet: 2 Sentencing 2010 Conference

  18. Use of the booklet Sentencing 2010 Conference

  19. Knowledge and punitiveness • Those who said sentences were about right had a higher level of knowledge than those who said sentences were too lenient: • e.g. respondents who said sentences for sex offences were about right were more likely have responded correctly to the question about rape imprisonment rates Sentencing 2010 Conference

  20. Use of the booklet 74% planned to keep the booklet 8% planned to give it to a friend 33% discussed the information in the booklet on crimes trends with family or friends 28% discussed the information in the booklet on sentencing 68% discussed the sentence Sentencing 2010 Conference

  21. Jurors as conduits of information Delta 1: ‘I worked with a very flippant group of people and I walked into work and they said, “Oh God, you let him off. You didn’t hang him.” But when you actually talk to them they were all satisfied with the result.’ Foxtrot 1: ‘My father is in Melbourne and I told him I had been on a jury. … He said, “Oh that was one of those sensationalist current affairs stories.” .. He was very unsympathetic about both people [offender and victim] and I said, “Dad, you had to be there”. Sentencing 2010 Conference

  22. Jurors as conduits of information India 2: ‘As soon as I told people what it was about afterwards, it was a 49 year-old and a 17 year-old. “He should have been castrated” they said. … I got the story up on the internet and said, “Look, read this”. Sentencing 2010 Conference

  23. Interest in information 97% said jurors would be interested in receiving a booklet about crime and sentencing after verdict. Zulu 1: ‘That’s something that I think could probably even get some circulation within schools or later years of school life.’ Victor 1: ‘Overall I thought it was an excellent book and I would like to find that sort of book in my doctor’s waiting room. … If these sorts of things were available in the courts I think it would be helpful’ Sentencing 2010 Conference

  24. Interest in information 98% said jurors would be interested in knowing how to access judge’s sentencing comments (64% very interested) November 1: ‘ When you watch TV and read the papers they make it out to sound a lot worse. .. It’s interesting because I’ve gone through a few of [the judge’s] other cases trying to determine if I agreed with the judge’. Whisky 2: ‘I actually looked back at similar cases that were on at the Supreme Court at the same time as well, just out of interest’. Sentencing 2010 Conference

  25. Discussion • The views of jurors with detailed knowledge of their own case suggest public opinion is not as punitive as surveys indicate (Stage 1) • With even more information jurors become less punitive (Stage 2) • Better knowledge and information can reduce punitivity but not eliminate it. Sentencing 2010 Conference

  26. Why? • There is a dichotomy between jurors’ view as to sentencing in the abstract and their views as to the sentence in the case they have tried. • This dichotomy remains even after the sentence is known and the information booklet received. • Some jurors can extrapolate from the information and knowledge but others can’t because they make exceptions for their own experience. Sentencing 2010 Conference

  27. Charlie 2 talked about his offender who was convicted of cultivating a controlled plant for sale and who had prior convictions for drug offences: ‘I probably wasn’t thinking about this bloke who was an amateur … So I am thinking about the people who are in it to make huge amounts of money quickly and with no thoughts of human misery or anything like that.’ Sentencing 2010 Conference

  28. Concluding comments: • There is value in engaging jurors about sentencing by giving them the sentencing remarks and an information booklet. • Jurors can be used as conduits of information to better educate the general public. • However, there are three limitations to this strategy. Sentencing 2010 Conference

  29. Concluding comments: First, the rarity of jury trials. Secondly, the implications of the perception gap. Thirdly, information alone is not equal to experience. Sentencing 2010 Conference

  30. Concluding comments: • Thank you. This is a project supported by a grant from the Criminology Research Council. The views expressed are the responsibility of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Council. Sentencing 2010 Conference

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