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Bailing and jailing the fast and frugal way : an application of social judgement theory and simple heuristics to English magistrates' remand decisions

Dhami, M.K. (2001). Bailing and jailing the fast and frugal way : an application of social judgement theory and simple heuristics to English magistrates' remand decisions. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


In the English criminal justice system, magistrates may bail a defendant unconditionally, with conditions, or remand a defendant in custody, whenever a case is adjourned. In three studies, magistrates' remand decision making was investigated using the technique of judgement analysis and the simple heuristics approach, within the framework of social judgement theory. The decisions made by individual magistrates on hypothetical cases, and by benches on real cases were examined. It was found that there were few inter-correlations among the cues presented in court, and often some information was lacking. In such cases, some magistrates bailed unconditionally. Decisions were generally made rapidly. Magistrates' decisions could be better described and predicted by the non-compensatory fast and frugal, Matching Heuristic, than by either of two linear compensatory integration models. According to the Matching Heuristic, magistrates searched through a small amount of the available information, and based their decisions on one cue. While some used legal cues as contained in the law on bail, others used defendant and crime control related cues. However, magistrates did not report the "extra-legal" cues as being influential. When granting conditional bail, magistrates typically imposed a condition of residence. Most magistrates demonstrated some degree of inconsistency in their decisions, and all showed disagreement from the modal response on some cases. Bail information schemes did not affect magistrates' decisions, although they did increase their post-decisional confidence. In fact, all magistrates were highly confident in their decisions. Although there were some differences in the performance of magistrates located in metropolitan and provincial courts, there were few differences between lay and stipendiary magistrates, and more and less experienced magistrates. In sum, magistrates' behaviour did not conform to the principles of due process, and so intervention is required. Finally, it is recommended that social judgement theorists consider using simple heuristics in future research.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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