Statistical Information Systems as a Means to Consistency and Rationality in Sentencing
University of Melbourne
International Journal of Law and Information Technology, Vol. 7, Issue 1, pp. 31-72, 1999
Systems providing statistical information on past sentencing practices for cases in respect of certain offence and offender characteristics are creating worldwide interest and yet have not been subject to rigorous analysis and evaluation. This article attempts this, using the systems in Scotland and New South Wales as an illustration. The proper use of SISs is explained, followed by an assessment of their usefulness as an aid to the sentencing discretion where there is individualized justice. In this respect they are found wanting. Following this, there is an analysis of the factors, such as the intercorrelatedness of the underlying data bases, acting to limit the validity of the information provided by SISs. Corrective measures for some of these deficiencies are proposed. Finally, it is concluded that these systems do not inform the sentencing process with greater rationality, the principal reason being that current sentencing practice is not the product of a policy for consistency of approach. Nevertheless, if SISs were part of a sentencing system in which judges applied a well-developed policy, then these systems might have the potential to promote justice. But it must be policy reflecting decision making in sentencing as an analytic, not a holistic process.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 29, 2008
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