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Easton & Piper: Sentencing and Punishment 4e

Chapter 1: Guidance for end-of-chapter questions

At the end of chapter 1 you were given:

  1. A case study and asked to consider the measures available to protect young children.
  2. Discussion questions focusing on factors affecting policy on sex offenders.

A. Case study: JD

JD, aged 40, has a history of sexual offences against young children over the past 15 years, for which he is currently serving a custodial sentence. His favoured methods of gaining access to children include watching them in the school playground, following them home, approaching children in amusement arcades, and befriending children playing on the seafront.

His last conviction was in 2010 and he is shortly to be released. On his release he plans to move back to his former home town of Brighton where he has many friends and hopes to find employment in the area. He also has a new girlfriend, whom he met on an internet dating site, and hopes to move in with her and her young family. The police are concerned that he remains a threat to young children.

Questions

  1. Consider what can be done to protect young children living in the area from this person. In considering your options select from the range of measures now available to monitor the movements of offenders released into the community and ways of restricting their movements.

Guidance: In answering this question you could refer to the range of measures available under the Sex Offences Act 2003 (ss 80-129) as amended by the Anti-social  Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014  (ss 113-115), particularly measures to control the movement of sex offenders and also consider further developments, including the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme.

  1. Do the measures you identify respect the offender?s human rights?

Guidance: Here you may wish to consider the implications of Articles 7 and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the prohibition on retrospective punishment and the right to private, home and family life.  Are there also implications for the presumption of innocence? Is the fact that the measures include civil orders significant?     You should also consider whether it is now possible for the offender to challenge the imposition of notification requirements in the light of the Supreme Court?s ruling on this issue in 2010.

  1. Are you satisfied that the measures you have discussed are adequate to protect children in the local area? If not, what further measures might be introduced and what problems might they raise?

Issues to consider further: Would protective sentencing be appropriate? What problems would this raise? You may wish to consider this further when you have read Chapter 5. Should notification of prior convictions be extended further with full disclosure to the wider community?

B. Questions for discussion

Consider the influence of the following factors on the introduction of the raft of new measures to deal with sex offenders in and since the 1990s.

a. Political factors.

Guidance: Here you could consider whether the governments were under pressure from MPs and their constituents, and from major interest groups concerned with child protection, or other groups anxious to ensure greater protection for the public from sex offenders, particularly those who offend against children. What were the political advantages to the Government of giving priority in its legislative programme to managing the risks from sex offenders? 

b. Economic factors.

Issues to consider further: Was cost a significant factor in the formulation of these measures? How were the costs of the registration scheme limited? Do you think that costs should be given a high priority when dealing with matters concerning public safety?

c. Public opinion.

Issues to consider further: How is public opinion on issues such as crime and punishment usually measured? Here you might wish to consider the findings of the Crime Survey. What does the available research tell us about public attitudes towards sex offenders? How significant was public opinion in the introduction of these measures? What problems does the Government face in taking account of public opinion? Was the public satisfied by the measures implemented? Should the public be given a greater say in influencing policies on sex offenders?

d. Penological theories.

Issues to consider further: Do these measures contain a punitive element or are they merely administrative? Do they satisfy the key justifications of punishment, such as retribution, incapacitation or deterrence? You may wish to reconsider this question after reading Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5.   Can the measures be seen as a form of actuarial justice?