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Title: Remorse and retribution : justifying mitigation at sentencing
Author: Maslen, Hannah E.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2714 8427
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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Remorse can be a powerful source of mitigation at sentencing. However, there is a lack of formal justification for this practice and a paucity of theoretical literature engaging with this issue. Addressing this gap, this thesis offers a comprehensive justification for why an offender’s remorse should mitigate the punishment he receives. It begins by discussing the emotion of remorse – its nature and value. With reference to broadly-retributive theories of punishment, it then considers various arguments that could be offered to justify the mitigating effect of remorse on the offender’s sentence. It rejects two arguments: either remorse constitutes some of the offender’s deserved punishment or remorse reduces the seriousness of the offence. Instead, it develops a justification inspired by philosophical work distinguishing blameworthiness and blaming. The thesis argues that, in the context of sentencing, a broadly-conceived dialogical model of censure is the most legitimate. Remorse, as the offender’s ideal input into the dialogue about the offence, modifies the subsequent censure required. If censure seeks a response, and this response is already forthcoming, to nonetheless continue to seek this response as if it were absent devalues the censure. Von Hirsch and Ashworth’s assertions that censure appeals to the offender as a rational moral agent, and their adherence to certain quasiretributive values, are shown to provide further support for these arguments. If the deserved censure is mitigated, then so is the corresponding punishment communicating this censure. The thesis next explores how this justification for mitigation compares with ‘mercy’ justifications, arguing that the justification offered in this thesis operates more internally to deserved censure, and is more principled, so is preferable on these grounds. In conclusion, the thesis considers the implications of its arguments for sentencing practice and whether it is a concern that they are valid only within ‘censure’ theories of punishment.
Supervisor: Roberts, Julian ; McDermott, Daniel Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Criminology: Sentencing and Punishment ; Philosophy ; sentencing ; punishment ; remorse ; retribution ; mitigation