Close up shot of the scales of justice

Focusing on the needs of the victim, and on wider society, is more important than punishing the offender, when designing sentencing policy

Published on

13 Sep 2023


The Justice Select Committee has today published findings of a public dialogue run by Involve, which has been submitted as evidence to its inquiry into public perceptions of sentencing policy.

The 25 participants were drawn from the general public, and in three sessions heard from experts giving different perspectives on the aims of sentencing. They agreed with the five aims of sentencing policy set out by Parliament, but also added new thinking on giving the victim a sense of justice. The dialogue revealed that for the public to have an understanding of sentencing policy, and to support the policymaking process, the emotive stories and heightened personal experiences which come along with sentencing need to be balanced with communicating the more rational framework  - but neither perspective should be ignored. The participants also warned against policymakers taking views on social media as representative of what the public really thinks - as the more sensational stories would be more top of mind.

The Justice Select Committee welcomed the dialogue as adding a new perspective to the enquiry.

I thought the process was amazing - it has been able to test our workings on public attitudes to sentencing. The dialogue format posed profound questions about how the criminal justice system works that bring a unique perspective, which will increase the value of the committee's inquiry.

Jack Simson Caird - Deputy Counsel

The dialogue was funded by the RSA as part of UKRI's Rethinking Public Dialogue programme, which supported the testing of new approaches and possibilities for public dialogue. This allowed participants to review analysis of how sentencing is discussed on social media, share their own and others' experiences on a new discussion platform, and use argument maps to explore the balance between their emotional and rational perspectives. Additionally, they tested their ideas through a case study game called "You Be the Judge".

Read more about the project and see the full dialogue report here.