Outside Publication

Proportionality – An Unattainable Ideal in the Criminal Justice System, Manchester Law Review, Vol 2:41


In spite of its centrality in the criminal justice system, the principle of proportionality is poorly defined, and its role in judicial sentencing rests on shaky ground. The idea that criminal sanctions should be imposed only in proportion to those crimes to which they seek to respond is well recognised and ostensibly applied in most modern legal systems. However, by examining the role of proportionality in actual judicial sentencing, it is apparent that its application is highly problematic. Indeed, proportionality is founded on criminal punishment theories that are mired in complex and unresolved debates, offering little guidance to judges on the role of proportionality and the way it should be applied in sentencing.

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