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

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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.

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APA

Warner, K., Spiranovic, C., Bartels, L., Roberts, L., & Gelb, K. (2022). Juror and community views of the guilty plea sentencing discount: Findings from a national Australian study. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 22(1), 78–96. https://doi.org/10.1177/1748895820956703

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