Back to RJ Archive

Sentencing Young Offenders: Public Opinion in England and Wales

Roberts, Julian V
June 4, 2015

Source: (2005) Criminal Justice. 5(3):211–232.

This article presents findings from a national, representative survey of public attitudes toward juvenile crime and juvenile justice in England and Wales, with attention to attitudes toward the sentencing of juvenile offenders. The survey, which was conducted in April 2003, had a response rate of 67 percent from the sample of 1,692; 1 adult per household was interviewed. The questionnaire explored perceptions of youth courts, views on the purpose of sentencing juvenile offenders, differences in attitude toward juvenile and adult sentencing, sentencing preferences in specific cases, and views on restorative sentencing options. Responses showed a lack of confidence in juvenile courts in Great Britain, since there was a significant gap between the sentences the respondents expected a court to impose and the sentences respondents would like to see imposed, reflecting the widespread perception that juvenile courts are too lenient in their sentencing. Respondents were asked to select their preferred sentences for cases that involved burglary, theft, and robbery. Under the various described circumstances of these cases, respondents showed significantly less support for custody as a sanction when the offender performed some restorative-justice steps, such as writing a letter of apology to the victim and promising to compensate the victim for the harms done. When asked about alternatives to imprisonment, a significant proportion of respondents were satisfied with alternatives to imprisonment. The findings suggest that respondents had a general impression that juvenile courts were too lenient in their sentencing and should dispense more and longer sentences of custody; however, when presented with information about specific cases and offenders, respondents were less likely to support custodial sentences. This was especially true when offenders engaged in restorative efforts designed to repair harms done to their victims. Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


AbstractEuropeJuvenileRJ in SchoolsRJ Office
Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now