Faculty Research Seminar: What’s the Rush? The Perils and Promise of Deferred Sentencing

Event date
25 November 2021
Event time
13:00 - 14:00
Oxford week
MT 7
Faculty Members
Online - Zoom
Julian V. Roberts

This faculty research seminar explores a little-known element of English sentencing law: Deferred Sentencing. For 50 years, courts have had the power to defer sentence for up to six months. According to S.3(1) of the Sentencing Act 2020, a court may defer passing sentence 'to enable a court, in dealing with the offender, to have regard to – (a) the offender's conduct after conviction (including, where appropriate, the offender's making reparation for the offence) or (b) any change in the offender's circumstances.' Deferring sentence for up to six months goes against the traditional approach in common law jurisdictions to pass sentence as soon after conviction as is practicable. Among other purposes, deferral provides the offender with an opportunity to demonstrate progress towards rehabilitation and to make voluntary compensation to the victim. Successful completion of the deferral requirements may result in the court imposing a noncustodial sentence when imprisonment was the likely outcome prior to deferral. In the early life of the provision, courts deferred up to 10,000 cases annually, although the volume of deferrals has since slowed to a trickle. Why? Is deferred sentencing simply a boon to wealthy offenders who can mobilise the resources necessary to turn their life around? Or can it offer all offenders a second chance to avoid imprisonment? Does deferred sentencing constitute a threat to retributive proportionality? In this 'work in progress' presentation, I explore the promise and perils of deferring sentencing in England and Wales. A draft paper will be available from the presenter shortly before the seminar.

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