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Community sentencing: Public Perceptions and Attitudes - Summary Research Report

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CHAPTER ONE BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES

BACKGROUND

Community sentencing encompasses a range of non-custodial options available to judges when passing sentence. There is a wide range of options open to sentencers according to the type and severity of the offence. However, it is felt that public awareness of the range of community sentences in Scotland, what they seek to achieve and how effective they are is low. In addition, past research has suggested that, although criminal justice professionals and academics tend to view the UK criminal justice system ( CJS) as one of the toughest in Western Europe, public perception is that this is too lenient.

A review of community sentencing is taking place over the summer of 2007. As part of the review, the Scottish Executive wished to explore several issues relating to public perception, attitudes and understanding of the subject.

TNS System Three was commissioned by the Scottish Executive to conduct research among the public to help inform the review process.

OBJECTIVES

Broadly, the research sought to provide insight into public understanding and perceptions of, and attitudes towards, community sentencing.

More specifically, the following objectives were also highlighted:

  • understand perceived effectiveness of community sentencing vs. prison
  • explore attitudes towards rehabilitation vs. punishment in sentencing
  • identify aspects of community sentencing which might help to persuade the public of its value / effectiveness
  • provide guidance for future communications strategies, aimed at promoting a more informed public debate on the subject