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Blamestorming, blamemongers and scapegoatsAllocating blame in the criminal justice process$
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Gavin Dingwall and Tim Hillier

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781447305002

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447305002.001.0001

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Blame in the criminal justice process

Blame in the criminal justice process

(p.27) Two Blame in the criminal justice process
Blamestorming, blamemongers and scapegoats

Gavin Dingwall

Tim Hillier

Policy Press

Chapter Two provides an overview of the role of blame in English criminal justice. Although the chapter cautions against viewing the criminal trial as the normal response to deviant behaviour (most offenders are diverted pre-trial or admit guilt), the trial remains paradigmatic and the chapter’s structure follows the process from mode of trial to sentence. It is argued that blame informs, though does not fully explain, both of these decisions. At this point in the book the value of blame both to illuminate and to evaluate becomes apparent. Sentencing represents a determination which will adversely affect the offender; as harm is being inflicted, it needs moral justification. The extent to which the offender is seen to be deserving of blame often frames a justification for sentence. Moreover, despite considerable residual discretion, sentencers must act within the law: statutes must be followed and guidelines generally heeded. To what extent does the law rely on notions of blame? Even if there is a gap between the statute and implementation, if sentencing law is based on blameworthiness, this is a notable finding. Our conclusion is that, despite a myriad of rival objectives, the law provides thresholds for different penalties (custody, community sentences and so on) based primarily on personal culpability. The relevant law is not so much accommodating to blame as a determinant of sentence, but usually demands that it is the sole or primary consideration.

Keywords:   blame, punishment, criminal process, mode of trial, diversion, sentencing

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