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Dealing the public in: challenges for a transparent and accountable sentencing policy

Indermaur, David
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) In Arie Freiberg and Karen Gelb, Eds., Penal Populism, Sentencing Councils and Sentencing Policy. Cullompton, Devon UK: Willan Publishing. Pp. 45-67

The chapter begins with an overview of developments designed to accommodate the public into the formation of sentencing policy in England and Wales, Australia and New Zealand. Sentencing advisory bodies in these and similar countries have tried to involve the public in a variety of ways including directly appointing community members and inviting public comments on released documents. It will be argued in the third section of this chapter that these mechanisms are not sufficient to achieve the goal of including the public into the sentencing review or policy-formation process in any meaningful way. When we consider what has been developed elsewhere as suitable frameworks for public participation, the current efforts do not appear to be based on a careful analysis of the nature of public disenchantment with sentencing. In the fourth section it will be argued that the problem of public mistrust of the courts has particular social and political dimensions that need to be addressed in shaping a strategy of public engagement. In the fifth section of the chapter some of the obstacles that must be overcome to enable a genuine process of public participation are outlined. It is concluded that a robust and transparent process of providing for public participation will require an approach and mechanisms that are likely to be beyond the capacity of sentencing advisory bodies as they are currently structured. However, there are other imperatives that may result in sentencing reforms that are responsive to public concerns and thus help build confidence in the courts. (Excerpt)


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