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Censure and Sanctions$
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Andrew von Hirsch

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198262411

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198262411.001.0001

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Censure and Proportionality

Censure and Proportionality

(p.6) 2 Censure and Proportionality
Censure and Sanctions

Andrew von Hirsch

Oxford University Press

The principle of proportionality — that sanctions be proportionate in their severity to the gravity of offences — appears to be a requirement of justice. People have a sense that punishments which comport with the gravity of offences are more equitable than punishments that do not. This chapter examines two kinds of desert-based general justifications that have attracted recent philosophical attention. One theory sees the institution of punishment as rectifying the ‘unfair advantage’ which lawbreakers obtain by offending. The other focuses on punishment's role as expressing censure or reprobation. With each theory, the chapter asks whether it supports proportionate sanctions, and how convincingly it does so. It begins with the ‘unfair advantage’ theory. A brief analysis will suggest that the theory, apart from its intrinsic perplexities, provides poor support for the principle of proportionality.

Keywords:   proportionality, justice, punishments, censure, proportionate sanctions, unfair advantage

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