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


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Warner, K, Spiranovic, C ORCID: 0000-0002-5270-8719, Bartels, L, Roberts, L and Gelb, K 2020 , 'Juror and community views of the guilty plea sentencing discount: findings from a national Australian study' , Criminology & Criminal Justice , pp. 1-19 , doi: 10.1177/1748895820956703.

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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.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Warner, K and Spiranovic, C and Bartels, L and Roberts, L and Gelb, K
Keywords: guilty plea discount, sentencing and public opinion, sex offence sentencing
Journal or Publication Title: Criminology & Criminal Justice
Publisher: Sage Publications
ISSN: 1748-8958
DOI / ID Number: 10.1177/1748895820956703
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2020 the authors. Accepted for publication in Criminology & Criminal Justice.

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