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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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The Aspiration to Penal Justice

(p.103) Epilogue
Censure and Sanctions

Andrew von Hirsch

Oxford University Press

This book has assumed that a sentencing system should seek to be just — or at least, to be as little unjust as possible. Claims about fairness, not crime-control effectiveness, underlie the requirements of proportionality, as one has seen. To aim at fairness would seem to be an uncontroversial objective for a decent and humane sanctioning system. However, this aim has elicited a variety of objections, the common theme of which is that achieving penal justice lies beyond the capabilities or legitimate aspirations of a modern state. Furthermore, parsimony concerns the laudable goal of reducing penal suffering. It points to a lowering of penalty levels — something that proportionate sanctions can achieve. If selective penalty reductions are made instead, it needs to be explained why the particular individuals or groups involved are favoured. Parsimony, however, does not show who should benefit from penalty reductions, how much, and why so.

Keywords:   sentencing system, proportionality, penal justice, parsimony, penalty reductions, fairness, sanctions

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