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With or without a purpose? Judges’ appraisal of offenders or their behaviour in six sentencing remarks

Authors
  • Dai, Xin
Type
Published Article
Journal
Text & Talk
Publisher
De Gruyter
Publication Date
Aug 15, 2022
Volume
43
Issue
4
Pages
449–469
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/text-2020-0228
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

This study examines judges’ language use in sentencing remarks in the Crown Courts of England and Wales. Six sentencing remarks were selected from all those available on the UK judiciary website (by October 2016). The cases selected for closer analysis are as similar to each other as possible, so as to ensure that the differences in the discursive features of the sentencing remarks largely reflect the differences in judges’ sentencing practices. It is found that judges selectively use an appraisal strategy – using moralised purposes to invoke judgements of offenders or their behaviour – across the six sentencing remarks. Judges’ use (or non-use) of the appraisal strategy is found to be correlating with their sentencing decisions: i.e., judges opt for the appraisal strategy when their sentencing decisions are below or further above the starting point, but not when the decisions are just a few years above the starting point. The finding reveals that the statutory starting point exercises a binding effect on the judges’ sentencing practices despite the judges having the discretion to disregard the starting point. Such a finding not only provides an insight into the judges’ sentencing practices, but also demonstrates that appraisal analysis is an effective means to get access to sentencing, which seemed so inaccessible to academic research.

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