'We have no awareness of what they actually do': Magistrates' knowledge of and confidence in community sentences for women offenders in England and Wales

Birkett, G. (2016). 'We have no awareness of what they actually do': Magistrates' knowledge of and confidence in community sentences for women offenders in England and Wales. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 16(4), pp. 497-512. doi: 10.1177/1748895816632852

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Abstract

In its Strategic Objectives for Female Offenders (2013) the Coalition government reiterated its support for robust and effective sentencing options that enable the majority of non-violent women offenders to be punished in the community. While a laudable ambition, this strategy will only be successful if sentencers are aware of (and support) the options available to achieve this goal. Considering government policy in relation to current levels of awareness among the magistracy, this article explores the factors that influence sentencing decisions for women. Highlighting reservations about the suitability of community provision, it also reveals the lack of information and training that magistrates receive on this issue. While there is certainly a willingness to learn and consider more creative options when sentencing women, it is clear that better knowledge of the offender and the options available are needed. Drawing on empirical research conducted with 168 magistrates in England and Wales, this article concludes with a number of practical avenues for improved communication, advocated by magistrates themselves. With many unaware of strategic direction on this issue, the implications for policy and practice are obvious.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright Sage 2016
Uncontrolled Keywords: Confidence, knowledge, magistrates, sentencing, training, women offenders
Subjects: K Law > KD England and Wales
Divisions: School of Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/13288

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