The contentious role of alcohol intoxication in shaping sentencing outcomes

Dr Carly Lightowlers1
1University Of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom

This project makes use of sentencing remarks for criminal court hearings involving alcohol intoxication for February 2007 to June 2016 (n=930) to study how alcohol intoxication impacts upon sentence outcomes. These data comprise a range of offence types, including arson, burglary, criminal damage, drinking driving, sexual and violent crime including murder. Within these records there is an unprecedented level of detail on the legal characteristics of the case (e.g. whether a guilty plea was entered), details of the court at which the case was heard and by which judge, as well as the sentence outcome, socio-demographic information about the defendant and distinguishing features and facts of the case remarked by the judge. Findings contribute insights into how punishment is shaped by the presence of alcohol intoxication in offending, in which instances and for whom


Biography:

Dr Lightowlers studied Criminology at the University of Lancaster and has an MSc in Research Methods and Statistics and PhD in Social Statistics from the University of Manchester. Her expertise is in the application of quantitative methods with which to study issues of alcohol, crime and justice using secondary and administrative data.

Intoxication has been identified as one of the most contentious factors in sentencing. Despite being listed within the English and Welsh sentencing guidelines as an aggravating factor, earlier studies have shown many sentences refer to intoxication as a mitigating circumstance. Despite recent studies pointing to intoxication impacting sentence outcomes for violent offences based on Crown Court Sentencing Survey data, no previous studies have been able to further distinguish between different forms of drinking (e.g. dependent vs. recreational drinking), the context of the offence (e.g. whether at home or in a public setting) or the gender of the victim.

 

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