Date of Award

1-1-2001

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Professor Donald M. Thomson

Abstract

The Australian justice system is based in a conventional model of justice with the aim of uniformity in sentencing. It is important to ascertain public opinion on the relevance of different factors to be taken into account at sentencing as accurately as possible, in order to provide informed public opinion which may assist policy makers in making legislation or educating the public on these matters. The current study examined the impact of varying levels of victim harm (high or low) and offender remorse (high or low) for both person and property crimes on sentencing decisions made by both male (n = 99) and female (n = 94) members of the Western Australian public. The design was a 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 between subjects factorial, with dependent variables of length of sentence assigned (0-10 years jail), rated influence of four sentencing goals (retribution, rehabilitation, incapacitation and deterrence) on sentence choice, and responses to an open-ended question about the reasons for the sentence chosen. The main findings were that demonstrations of offender remorse and the level of harm caused to the victim appeared to be factors in public participants' sentencing. There was no difference in sentences assigned by male and female participants. Although the majority of participants believed they sentenced for rehabilitative reasons. Retribution appeared to be the major factor in the sentences assigned an outcome which reflects the focus of the Western Australian sentencing legislation. Implications arising from the results include the need for more public education in the areas of the functions or the courts, legal principles and theories, and options for victims of crime. Overall, the current study added to the body of research examining public opinions about the potential relevance of various victim and offender factors at the sentencing phase in the search for uniformity in sentencing.

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