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Cover Sentencing and Punishment

3. Determining ‘just deserts’  

Seriousness and proportionality are key concepts in the ‘just deserts’ approach to sentencing which was endorsed by the Criminal Justice Act 1991. This chapter analyses the extent to which this sentencing framework with retributivist principles has been undermined by subsequent changes in legislation, notably the Criminal Justice Act 2003, and by amendments to that Act. It examines law and guidance on constructing seriousness, particularly in relation to harm and culpability, and on determining a commensurate sentence. It illustrates issues by using examples from recent guidelines and focuses discussion on examples from custodial sentencing. Finally, the chapter discusses criticisms of modern retributivism.