Youth Court Judges' Views of the Youth Justice system: The results of a survey

Community influences in sentencing

Judges were asked [31]whether Crown attorneys or others mentioned "public opinion" or public views concerning what should happen to a young person. As can be seen in the table below, the mentioning of "public opinion" occurs more frequently for some judges than for others. No significant provincial or regional variation appeared to exist with regard to the frequency with which "public opinion" or public views were mentioned in court.

Crown or others mention public opinion
  Frequently Valid
Percentage
Cumulative
Percentage
Valid
Yes, frequently 40 17.4 17.4
Yes, occasionally 102 44.3 61.7
Yes, but only rarely 68 29.6 91.3
No, never 20 8.7 100
Total 230 100  
Missing 8    
Total 238    

Not surprisingly, those judges who reported hearing comments about "public opinion" tended to be the same judges who indicated hearing about the "prevalence of a particular type of offence in the community."[32]

Frequency of mention of "prevalence" of particular type of offence as a function of "public opinion being mentioned"
  Is prevalence of particular kind of offence raised in court? Total
Yes, frequently Yes occasionally Rarely or never
Public opinions or views mentioned in relation to disposition? Yes frequently

Count
Row percent

29
72.5 %
10
25 %
1
2.5 %
40
100 %
Yes occasionally

Count
Row percent

25
24.8 %
68
67.3 %
8
7.9 %
101
100 %
Rarely or, never

Count
Row percent

20
23.3 %
52
60.5 %
14
16.3 %
86
100 %
Total

Count
Row percent

74
32.6 %
130
57.3 %
23
10.1
227
100 %

Chi-Square = 38.95, df=4, p<.001 (1 cell with estimated value<5: 4.05)

Clearly, in some locations, or by some people in the court process, certain judges are likely to receive indications of prevalence and public opinion.

The judges who stated that "public opinion" was frequently mentioned in their courts, as well as those who were told about the "prevalence" of a particular offence, tended to be likely to indicate that they considered the impact that a decision might have on public opinion.

Consider impact of decision on public opinion
  Consider impact of decision on public opinion Total
Frequently or occasionally Rarely or never
Public opinions or views mentioned in relation to disposition? Yes, frequently

Count
Row percent

24
60 %
16
40 %
40
100 %
Yes, occasionally

Count
Row percent

53
52.5 %
48
47.5 %
101
100 %
Rarely or never

Count
Row percent

36
40.9 %
52
59.1 %
88
100 %
Total

Count
Row percent

113
49.3 %
116
50.7 %
229
100 %

Chi square = 4.72, df=2, p<.10; Linear component 4.612, df=1 p<.05, r=.142, unrecoded r=.186, p<.05

Consider impact of decision on public opinion
  Consider impact of decision on public opinion Total
Frequently or occasionally Rarely or never
Is prevalence of particular kind of offence raised in court? Yes, frequently

Count
Row percent

44
56.4 %
34
43.6 %
78
100 %
Yes, occasionally

Count
Row percent

67
50.8 %
65
49.2 %
132
100 %
Rarely or never

Count
Row percent

5
21.7 %
18
78.3 %
23
100 %
Total

Count
Row percent

116
49.8 %
117
50.2 %
233
100 %

Chi square = 8.66, df=2, p<.05, linear component=6.108, df=1, p<.05, r=.16, unrecoded r=.16, p<.05

Similarly, those judges who indicated that the "prevalence" of a particular kind of offence was likely to be raised were also most likely to indicate that they took into account the prevalence of crime in the community (r=.31, p<.01). [33]

Not surprisingly, the use of the apparent prevalence of youth crime (or the prevalence of a particular type of youth crime) in the community is related to general deterrence. As noted earlier in this report, we asked judges to indicate, for each of three types of offences, the importance of various principles and purposes in determining the sentence for each of them. As an estimate of the importance of "general deterrence" for each judge, we simply combined the "importance" given to general deterrence by him/her for the three offences. As can be seen in the figure below, those judges most likely to take "prevalence" into account indicated that "general deterrence" was more important at sentencing than it was for those who indicated that prevalence "almost never or never" was relevant.

Frequency of taking prevalence into account

Description

Note: With "general deterrence" as the dependent variable, F(2,211)=9.39, p<.001

Not surprisingly, those judges who indicated that they were most likely to take prevalence of crime into account were also most likely to indicate that they "consider the impact that a decision (e.g., a sentencing decision) might have on public opinion.

Frequency of taking prevalence into account * Consider impact of decision on public opinion Crosstabulation
  Consider impact of decision on public opinion Total
Frequently or occasionally Rarely or never
Frequency of taking prevalence into account Always, usually Count
Row percent
54
67.5 %
26
32.5 %
80
100 %
Occasionally Count
Row percent
54
44.3 %
68
55.7 %
122
100 %
Almost never, never Count
Row percent
9
29 %
22
71 %
31
100 %
Total Count
Row percent
117
50.2 %
116
49.8 %
233
100 %

Chi square = 16.84, df=2, p<.001


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