In October five members of the University of Oxford Centre for Criminology participated in an international conference exploring judicial discretion in sentencing in Europe. The conference was organized by Professor Andreas Kapardis, Professor of Law and Psychology at the University of Cyprus, and Professor Julian Roberts from the Centre for Criminology at Oxford. The sessions were spread over two days and were held at the Law Faculty, University of Cyprus in Nicosia.

The focus of the conference was upon new directions in sentencing reform and innovative approaches to offending, particularly in relation to Cyprus and other states in the Aegean. Cyprus has a largely discretionary sentencing regime, and one of the themes of the conference was the need for greater consistency. Little has been published in English on sentencing in Cyprus, Greece and the other jurisdictions in the region. Accordingly this seminar (and the resulting publications to appear next year) broke new ground in the field. Presentations at the seminar explored sentencing guidelines; international reform initiatives; drug treatment courts; preventive orders; sentencing councils, the role of mercy at sentencing, releasing decisions by the parole authorities and many other issues.

In his opening keynote address, Julian Roberts summarised and discussed international and national proposals and reforms in the area of sentencing. Tracing developments back to the seminal volume published in 1972 by Judge Frankel he noted proposals in Europe (Council of Europe) and the US. The recent Model Penal Code (Sentencing) project created by the American Law Institute is a good example of a comprehensive model set of sentencing and early release provisions. His presentation was followed by additional plenaries on general issues in sentencing, one by Nicola Padfield (University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law) and Sir Anthony Bottoms (Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge). Two other current members of the Oxford Centre also made presentations.

Nicholas Santis presented a plenary on the role of mercy in sentencing decisions in Cyprus. His presentation discussed judicial attitudes to the concept of mercy, as evidenced in judgments over the years. He also explored the normative issues arising from the application of mercy at the stage of sentencing.

Rory Kelly discussed three current issues with preventive orders. First, how the judiciary ought to assess whether the imposition of a preventive order is necessary - is this a question best left to judicial discretion or an empirical task focused on the risk/dangerousness? Second, and in light of recent consultation by the Sentencing Council, the relation between the behaviour preventive orders are imposed to prevent–such as sexual harm, terrorism, or anti-social behaviour–and sentencing breach of the order. If, say, two orders that aim to prevent terrorism and sexual harm respectively both impose a curfew that is breached, should the factors considered when sentencing for the breach be the same in both cases? Third, whether traditional labels attached to preventive orders continued to be of relevance. For instance, it is questionable whether traditional labels such as a ‘civil tool’ or a ‘civil-criminal hybrid’ capture the trend for the imposition of some orders to be largely at the discretion of the executive, not a civil court.

Other current and former members of the Centre participating in the conference included Leila Tai, Lyndon Harris, Mojka Plesnicar and Michelle Grossman. Proceedings from the conference will be published in a peer-review journal later in 2018.