The basis, development and potential of a computer system to assist with the sentencing of offenders.
Magistrates and judges have a substantial amount of discretion in
their choice of sentence to impose on a convicted offender. The
application of this discretion attracts a great deal of criticism
and one of the more serious aspects is apparent disparity in
sentencing patterns between courts, benches and sentencers. It
was considered that it should be possible to develop a computer
system which would assist magistrates with their decision as to
which sentence to impose on a convicted offender by structuring
the rules and norms applicable to sentencing and by providing
information supporting and supplementing these, thereby improving
the' quality of sentencing decision-making.
This thesis describes the development of a computer-based system
to assist with the sentencing of offenders. The computer system,
called CASE, was constructed after an enquiry into the nature of
the sentencing process in Magistrates' Courts, the implications of
jurisprudence for such a system and the significance of
developments in computer science, including expert systems.
The CASE system was designed so as to represent existing
sentenCing law and practice, giving a pragmatic flavour to the
research. In particular, the sentencer's discretion is recognised
by the computer system. As a consequence, the system is capable
of application in actual sentencing decision-making.
Interesting features of the CASE system include the
identification, formalization and representation of legal rules
and guidance to sentencers within a computer system. The computer
system also contains a predictive model based on Bayesian
statistics and derived from an analysis of data collected in a
survey of actual sentencing decision-making in Magistrates'
Courts. The CASE system is not an "expert system" in the true
sense, although it does make use of "expert system" techniques.
Rather, it is better to describe CASE as a "decision-support
The potential for the system, in terms of practical use, was
de~ermined by holding demonstrations in Magistrates' Coutts, after
WhlCh questionnaires were completed by those attending.