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Alcohol, crime and judgments of responsibility: Sentencing practice in a magistrates' court.

Rumgay, Judith (1992) Alcohol, crime and judgments of responsibility: Sentencing practice in a magistrates' court. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

Debate about the status of the intoxication excuse as a legal defence is rooted in lay theories, or common sense assumptions, about the effects of alcohol on rationality and intentionality. There has been less concern to clarify the controversial use of information about defendants' intoxication or alcoholism as a mitigating factor in sentencing. A literature review leads to the conclusion that academic theories of alcohol-related crime are deterministic to an extent unsupported by the empirical research. Alcohol expectancy theory is identified as a perspective which may illuminate the alcohol-crime relationship without denying intentionality in offending behaviour. It is suggested that the alcohol expectancies comprise a set of lay theories about the effects of alcohol on mood and behaviour; that these may provide the bases for techniques of neutralisation and rationalisation which facilitate offending; and that such techniques may be adapted in courtroom mitigation. An empirical study of a magistrates' court examines the use of information about defendants' intoxication or alcoholism in sentencing decision making. Such information is found to facilitate rapid information processing and provide rationales for sentencing decisions by appealing to lay theories about alcohol's effects on mood and behaviour, and its role in crime causation. However, mitigation invoking intoxication or alcoholism are constrained by factors concerning types of offence and offender, and the availability of alternative explanations of crime. The study compares theories of crime and criminal justice held by magistrates and probation officers. Discrepancies are identified between these lay and professional perspectives which obstruct the sentencing decision making process. It is concluded that mitigations invoking intoxication or alcoholism are uniquely flexible in constructing judgements of criminal responsibility. The general applicability of the analysis of sentencing decision making may be constrained by factors specific to the court studied.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology, Criminology and Penology, Law
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/2460

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