Juror and community views of the guilty plea sentencing discount: Findings from a national Australian study

Kate Warner, Caroline Spiranovic, Lorana Bartels, Lynne Roberts, Karen Gelb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A plea of guilty is a long-accepted factor mitigating sentence in many countries, including Australia, although academic debate over the merits and application of the discount is ongoing. This paper presents findings from a national Australian study on public opinion on the guilty plea sentencing discount, with a particular focus on sexual offences. Survey data were drawn from 989 jurors in cases that resulted in a guilty verdict and 450 unempanelled jurors and 306 online respondents who were provided with vignettes based on real cases. A third of the respondents would have supported a discount in their case if the offender had pleaded guilty. In contrast, more than one half of the respondents surveyed, who had received a vignette with a guilty plea scenario, supported an increment in sentence if the offender had gone to trial. There was more support for a discount in cases involving non-sexual violent offences versus sexual offences and adult versus child victims. Where a discount was supported, this most commonly was a reduction in the length of custodial sentence, with online respondents allocating the least generous discounts. Willingness to accept a sentencing discount was predicted by a range of variables including gender, education, punitive attitudes, offence type and offence seriousness. We conclude by considering the implications of our findings for sentencing law and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalCriminology and Criminal Justice
Volume00
Issue number0
Early online date12 Sep 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

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