HUMAN RIGHTS, DUE PROCESS AND SENTENCING.
The recent conflict between the judiciary and the executive regarding the sentencing reforms contained in the controversial 1996 White Paper, Protecting the Public and the resultant Crime (Sentences) Act 1997, has focused attention on the nature and protection of individual rights in the sentencing process (see, for example, Nash and Furse 1996; Henham 1996). This concern reflects a wider preoccupation with the implications of increased managerialism, consumerism and politicization of sentencing policy formulation during the last decade (see Lacey 1994; Bottoms 1995). This paper is concerned with two aspects of the debate. In the first instance, it examines the arguments for adopting a rights-based approach to the analysis of the sentencing process rather than the traditional crime control and due process models (Packer 1968). The rights-based approach is exemplified in recent work by Ashworth which focuses on the pre-trial criminal justice process (1994: 26-34, 1996), while Sanders and Young have adopted Packer's normative models in their contemporary analysis of the criminal process (1994: 12-20). Although these writings focus largely on pre-trial as opposed to sentencing aspects of the criminal justice process, the analysis which follows is based on the premise that there are certain normative and analytical issues, central to a contemporary analysis of the criminal justice system, which transcend the specific concerns of discrete components of the process. In other words, despite the fact that at the micro-level different analytical forms and values may exist for each process, the normative questions raised by the rights-based approach and the heuristic capabilities of criminal process models have a wider relevance to the operation of the criminal justice process as a whole.
Packer's Crime Control model stresses the repression of criminal conduct as the most important function of the criminal justice system and focuses on the most efficient ways that this can be achieved, particularly through the disregard of formal legal controls which prove an obstacle to the production of a high conviction rate. The Due Process model, on the other hand, stresses adherence to courtroom procedure and protection of the individual. Packer endeavours to develop these models as representative of two competing sets of normative prescriptions which can be employed as heuristic devices to facilitate the description and analysis of the criminal process. The latter is portrayed as producing a constant interplay between the contradictory demands of the two competing normative positions. Sanders and Young (1994) utilize Packer's typology as a normative measuring rod by relating every aspect of empirical reality to its compatibility with the bipolar normative positions represented in each model, thus imbuing Packer's project with a dichotomous quality which it was not intended to possess. Ashworth (1994: 28-9) doubts the continued utility of Packer's models as a satisfactory theoretical framework for analysis of the criminal process, pointing out that `the models may help us to identify elements of two important strands, but they neglect other conflicting tendencies'. He asserts (without further elaboration) that the search for further possible models is less relevant than the introduction of `certain concepts from the law of evidence' (1994: 29). Ashworth consequently develops a number of fundamental principles and corresponding rights, including rectitude--the need to ensure the reliability and accuracy of evidence, protection of the innocent from wrongful conviction, and the right to consistent treatment within declared policies, the principle that individuals should only be subject to the minimum burdens necessary, and integrity--in the sense that criminal justice agents and the courts should consistently apply morally acceptable practices. Ashworth's basic concern is his rejection of the notion of `balance' between competing interests in the criminal process, although this, as Norrie points out (1995: 342), remains unresolved in Ashworth's theoretical position.
The analysis suggests that both philosophically and sociologically derived positions address different aspects of the same problem. The rights-based approach is concerned to postulate a number of fundamental normative propositions which, as such, have moral rather than empirical validity. The due process and crime control approach is viewed as theoretically deficient, but heuristically valuable as an empirical tool. I therefore argue that each approach is complementary but neither suggests a sufficiently sophisticated theoretical formulation of the criminal process within which rights can be empirically located, their existence and relationship to other variables established, and their significance assessed. The decisions of the European Court of Human Rights relating to the sentencing of dangerous mentally abnormal offenders are presented and analysed in order to illustrate how identifying the existence of rights through the operation of substantive law cannot necessarily be related to normative concerns in the establishment and recognition of fundamental rights. It is suggested that a nexus between philosophical and sociological theory can be achieved by utilizing Giddens's theory of structuration within which substantive rights and principles, which may (or may not) represent normative principles or rights, can be conceptually located and empirically verified. This has the advantage, not only of providing an appropriate theoretical context for rights analysis, but also the potential for wider theoretical evaluation of the criminal process.
Evaluating `Models' of the Criminal Justice Process
In recent work Ashworth has developed a rights-based approach for analysis of the criminal process following his rejection of the conventional theoretical framework developed by Herbert Packer in the 1960s (Ashworth 1994: 29). In so doing Ashworth asserts the need to `introduce certain concepts from the law of criminal evidence' rather than seek to modify Packer's models to encapsulate more modern complexities such as resource management and victim-related rights. Ashworth's principal motivation for abandoning Packer's analysis appears to rest on his desire to jettison the concept of `balance' (as exemplified by the 1993 Royal Commission) in favour of a more rational and principled basis for the promulgation of criminal justice reform (Ashworth 1996).(1) With the exception of Norrie (1995), reviewers of Ashworth's 1994 study unequivocally asserted the significance of this change in approach (Sandland 1995; Greer 1995; Morgan 1996). In his review of Sanders and Young, Sandland refers to their over-reliance on the Packer typology to the extent that `some issues are forced to fit somewhat uneasily within this framework' (Sandland 1995: 679) and Morgan simultaneously complains that Sanders and Young's assumption that the English criminal justice system is characterized largely by crime-control values `runs like a leitmotif through their subsequent exposition' (Morgan 1996: 309). Further, both Sandland and Greer are explicit in referring to Ashworth's alternative approach as a `model' of criminal justice (Sandland 1995: 680; Greer 1995: 648) while Morgan uses the expression `model or principle' interchangeably when referring to Ashworth and Sanders and Young (Morgan 1996: 311). I wish to suggest that this notion of a `model' is misconceived and that the Packer typology (or similar variants) should not be viewed as an alternative to any rights-based approach but rather as complementary, since they are both conceptually and analytically distinct. In essence, Ashworth's normative prescriptions are wrongly understood as being a set of empirically testable propositions equivalent to a social theory of human rights, which is essentially to embrace the naturalistic fallacy that `ought' cannot be derived from `is' (Finnis 1980). Theoretically grounded heuristic models, such as Packer's, are specifically designed to be the exploratory tools of social science explanation. I will argue that social theory and the empirical reality which may represent normative positions are complementary in the sense that it is possible to utilize Giddens's theory of structuration as a framework within which these processes can be located and analysed.
There is no doubt that, although the Packer typology may be deficient (Bottomley 1973; Bottoms and McClean 1976),(2) its value derives from its utility as a heuristic device. It is a model, or paradigm (Kuhn 1962), in the sense that, although it may Specify those factors involved in a causal sequence, it does not purport to reveal the reality of decision making in the criminal justice process as do theoretical formulations (Ryan 1970). Models may, however, be adapted to represent distillations of particular value systems reflecting different approaches to criminal justice and, more widely, political and social policy positions. In this sense they may be concerned further to explain the relationship between social institutions and social change (King 1981). Alternatively, a more deterministic application has been to develop decision-making models of the criminal justice process or sentencing system for use as predictive devices (Hood and Sparks 1970; Morgan et al. 1987). Given that the sentencing process is both irrational and complex, a paradigmatic sentencing structure (or model) is a pre-requisite for meaningful hypothesis testing (Hogarth 1971).
Further, there are two considerations relating to the Packer typology which are particularly relevant to the present argument. The first point concerns a more general criticism directed at due process, crime control and bureaucratic models of the criminal justice process, namely, that research based on such approaches treats areas of the criminal justice system as self-contained entities as opposed to structures within a wider social system. Such so-called `abstracted empiricism' (Wright Mills 1970) may be partially responsible for the failure to develop an integrated theoretical approach to researching the criminal justice process and has hindered the development of new theory (Henham 1995). In this respect King (1981) draws a clear distinction between `participant models' which propose ideals for the attainment of due process, crime control or rehabilitative objectives that can be evaluated against reality concerning the operation of the court process, and `social models' which are concerned to complement this analysis by suggesting reasons why particular policy objectives should be pursued and solutions for deficiencies between aspiration and performance (for example, Garfinkel 1956; Carlen 1976; King 1978). King also asserts that a multi-theoretical approach is desirable for a comprehensive evaluation of social policy objectives in the criminal justice system (King 1981: 122). Secondly, McBarnet (1981) concludes that Packer's dichotomy between crime control and due process is false, arguing that criminal procedure provides a licence for the police to deviate and that due process is for crime control. McBarnet asserts that assumptions are made that the law incorporates rights for the accused and the problem is seen, in essence, as one which asks how the police and courts subvert, negate or abuse them--the law itself being left unscrutinized. Theoretical approaches should examine why the law allows individuals to be processed by agents of the criminal justice system. McBarnet sees it as crucial to consider state ideology in the criminal process since this is the most explicitly coercive apparatus of the state whereby citizens' liberty is directly interfered with under known laws by means of due process.
McConville and Baldwin (1981) assert that. McBarnet failed to distinguish between those situations where the law appeared to confer certain rights but did not do so in fact, and where the law did give suspects rights but, albeit, ones that were not enforced. The important point was to determine whether those rights were breached or unenforced, either because there was no effective mechanism to enforce them, or because the courts chose not to enforce them. The distinction is crucial, since the first alternative concerns the structure of the system and rule formulation, while only the second provides insights into the ideology of the courts. Sanders and Young dispense with McBarnet's argument that due process is for crime control on the basis that she incorrectly characterizes rules of procedure as due process even when they serve the interests of crime control, whereas rules of procedure may be regarded as serving the interests of either due process or crime control (Sanders and Young 1994: 460). However, McBarnet's wider critique of the Packer typology is implicitly accepted by Sanders and Young:
The question of where on the spectrum between crime control and due process the English system of criminal justice is today to be located must, therefore, take account of both the formal law, as laid down in statutes and case law, and the organizational practices of officials operating within that legal framework. (1994: 20; emphasis added)
In summary, I have argued that the Packer typology is essentially a heuristic device concerned to identify norms operating within the criminal justice system that express principles appealing to the value positions adopted by crime control and due process. In contrast, I will now argue that Ashworth's rights-based approach is concerned chiefly with the identification of principles of substantive and procedural fairness in the sentencing context and, as a statement of normative principles, does not address the wider theoretical and analytical questions raised. These include fundamental questions resulting from the absence of a coherent social theory that facilitates the analysis of discrete areas within the criminal process (such as the pre-trial process) and which is sufficiently conceptually sophisticated to permit analysis of criminal justice as a continuous process of social interaction.
In a recent paper Ashworth has again re-asserted the need for the notion of `balance' to be removed from the criminal justice debate and suggests `a chronology' for the adoption of a rights-based approach to the criminal process which can be summarized as follows:
(a) identification of the aims of a given part of the criminal process;
(b) establishing what rights ought to be accorded to suspects, defendants and victims;
(c) establishing an adequate foundation for right;
(d) determining the proper ambit of rights. This essentially involves ascertaining the relative weight of any right, circumstances in which rights may be sacrificed and the consequent examination of alternatives, a well as the careful investigation of any empirical basis claimed to support the curtailment of rights in the interests of crime control;
(e) where choices must be made the principle of `maximum respect for rights' should be observed;
(f) focusing on rights must not lead to the neglect of wider issues such as public accountability and the exercise of power (Ashworth 1996: 229-30).
Ashworth's analysis accepts the thesis that rights are fundamental in the Dworkinian sense of distinguishing between bare harm and moral harm (Ashworth 1994: 29). Hence moral harm may give rise to a particular injustice through wrongful conviction or sentence. Dworkin draws the distinction by suggesting that bare harm is merely subjectively significant while moral harm is an `objective matter, and whether someone suffers moral harm in some circumstances, and the relative weight or importance of that harm as against what others save through the practices or events that produce it, are moral rather than psychological facts' (Dworkin 1981: 208). Ashworth consequently develops the argument that fundamental rights should include the right to liberty, the right to consistent treatment within declared policies, the right that the pre-trial system should impose the minimum of burdens on individuals subject to it, and the principle of integrity (Ashworth 1994: 29-33). In conclusion, Ashworth states that `it is better not to rely on Packer's two models but instead to develop an approach that reflects the range of factors that may legitimately impinge on decision making in criminal justice' (Ashworth 1994: 33-4; my emphasis). I would argue that the fundamental nature of rights as normative principles does not facilitate the working out of situations where rights conflict within the criminal process. The rights-based approach is morally prescriptive and, since it is detached from empirical `truth', deals in unverifiable propositions. However, the objective validity of such propositions can only be tested against empirical fact and the operation of those social processes which they hope to influence. The extent to which normative propositions actually dictate, or are reflected in empirical fact is an essential endeavour for social theorization of the criminal process. The protection to which individual citizens are entitled is described by Dworkin in the following terms:
We have seen that people drawn into the criminal process do not have the right to the most accurate possible procedures for testing the charges against them. But they do have two other genuine rights: the right to procedures that put a proper valuation on moral harm in the calculations that fix the risk of injustice that they will run, and the related and practically more important right to equal treatment with respect to that evaluation. (Dworkin 1981: 214)
Therefore, it is apparent that those factors which it is essential to evaluate to understand how rights are protected in reality cannot be identified simply by adopting a rights-based approach given that the latter is concerned with normative prescription rather than empirical reality.
The concept of power is virtually relegated to the status of an afterthought by Ashworth (1996: 230) who considers its presence or absence only in relation to its direct influence on the exercise of rights, without considering either how this process is to be described and evaluated, nor the wider symbolic dimensions of power in terms of domination, exploitation and oppression. Analysis of whether the operation of a system is, or is not, procedurally fair must be measured against evaluations of normative behaviour (as represented in different `social models') that reflect the value positions of alternative theoretical traditions or approaches. As Lacey points out `an emphasis on the development of fair procedures does not guarantee an increase in substantive justice, which I take to be our primary goal' (Lacey 1987: 225) and further `at every level the practice of criminal justice is fractured by competing goals and values, which represent conflicts of principle too deep to be overcome merely by jettisoning certain pieces of institutional material as mistaken' (Lacey 1987: 230). We have seen that the development of theoretical models of the sentencing process is essential to our understanding of how competing goals and values in reality `cause' procedural unfairness. The rights-based approach is deficient only in the sense that, as a normative agenda, it does not exist to provide empirical data relating to the nature, extent, length of protection and principles of derogation from rights (Ashworth 1979: 422-25; Dworkin 1981: 208). Nevertheless, the social and political context in which rights are exercised can only be discovered through the adoption of models which identify competing interests. The difference is between asserting which rights are relevant and finding the best way of establishing whether they exist in reality. A theoretically grounded device is therefore essential to link what is discovered to existing knowledge.
If certain rights are to be regarded as fundamental in the sentencing process, I suggest that it becomes necessary to reconcile Ashworth's rights-based approach with Sanders and Young's due process methodology by accepting that the socio-legal and wider sociological significance of such rights must be accounted for within theoretically grounded paradigms of the sentencing process. In this way variables may be incorporated which impact on the contemporary exercise of fundamental rights. It is perhaps our failure to reveal the empirical reality of the sentencing process (particularly Crown Court sentencing(3)) which has frustrated attempts to comprehensively reform the sentencing process(4) and facilitated adoption of the rhetorical solution of `balancing' the interests of offenders, victims and the community.
I now propose to examine in some detail the extent to which substantive human rights for dangerous mentally abnormal offenders in the sentencing process are recognized in the European Convention on Human Rights. The analysis is designed to illustrate how ethical dilemmas and normative prescriptions cannot be superimposed on or related to empirical reality without some kind of theoretical framework. The example of sentencing `dangerous' mentally abnormal offenders is selected because it highlights these concerns in a particularly dramatic fashion, in addition to being an issue of major significance in the present sentencing debate. Furthermore, I would argue that, since these normative and theoretical questions are relevant and largely unresolved concerns affecting other components of the criminal justice process (namely arrest, pre-trial and post-sentencing), examples drawn from them are likely to yield the same results. Notwithstanding that the degree of derogation from rights is an empirical issue which must vary according to whatever aspect of the criminal justice process is examined, the lack of any coherent theoretical formulation to assist us in understanding how legal and social variables determine the operation of rights is a problem affecting the entire criminal justice system.
Sentencing `Dangerous' Mentally Disordered Offenders and `Fundamental' Rights
Under existing legislative provisions mentally abnormal offenders regarded as dangerous may be subject to a variety of sentencing alternatives.(5) The present irrational legislative framework means that such offenders may be subject to either a commensurate sentence under ss1(2) (a) and 2 (2) (a) Criminal Justice Act 1991 (based upon just deserts principles which stress proportionality), or a protective sentence under ss1 (2) (b) and 2(2) (b) of that Act (based upon principles of selective incapacitation). Depending on the degree of `mental abnormality' the offender may be regarded as suitable for a disposal under the Mental Health Act 1983; or, if otherwise appropriate, a discretionary life sentence subject to the restrictive criteria in Rv. Hodgson (1967) 52 Cr. App. R. 113.(6) Whichever disposal is deemed appropriate, circumstances may arise whereby the offender ceases to be dangerous but nevertheless continues to be detained under the terms of the original sentence. However, in the case of discretionary life sentences, for example, an `injustice' may be less likely since a discretionary life prisoner sentenced for a violent or sexual offence is entitled to have his sentence reviewed once he has served the commensurate part of his sentence (s34(3) Criminal Justice Act 1991). No such right to review exists in the case of a protective sentence under s2(2) (b) of the 1991 Act and the offender must instead wait until he has served two-thirds of the original sentence (where more than four years) before becoming entitled to automatic release on licence. Clearly, although there are complex ethical considerations regarding the propriety of continued detention in circumstances where `dangerousness' has ceased or diminished for whatever reason, it is inappropriate to pursue these further in this paper (see Henham 1997).
Potentially, a number of general principles identified by Ashworth (1994: 56-7) may be in jeopardy. These might include the right to be treated fairly and without discrimination, the right to be presumed innocent and the right not to be detained without conviction: However, the protection offered by the European Convention on Human Rights in these circumstances is limited. For instance, Article 5 (1) (a), which permits `the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court' has been interpreted by the European Court so as to preclude investigation of the appropriateness or length of a prison sentence; Krzycki v. FRG (No. 7629/76) 13 DR 57 except in clear cases of illegality; Weeks v. UK (1987) A 114. The European Court has also specified the need for a `sufficient connection' between the initial court sentence and subsequent detention by administrative authority. The `causal connection' test articulated in Van Droogenbroeck v. Belgium (1982) A 50 requires that for a decision as to continued detention to be unlawful, it would have to be based upon grounds which had no connection with the objectives of the legislature and the court or on an assessment that was unreasonable in terms of those objectives. No special protection is accorded to mentally abnormal offenders who are detained in a mental institution for treatment instead of receiving a retributive prison sentence (X v. United Kingdom (1981) A 46) and the expression `conviction' has been interpreted so as to exclude preventative detention; Guzzardi v. Italy (1980) A 39.
In any event, mentally abnormal offenders may be lawfully detained under Article 5 (1) (e) which provides for the detention of certain persons who might constitute a danger to the public if allowed to remain free, namely, persons with infectious diseases or of `unsound mind', alcoholics, drug addicts or vagrants. The European Court has exercised some control regarding the reliability of the evidence on which a finding of `unsound mind' is based, to the extent that it must be `reliably shown' by `objective medical expertise'; the mental disorder must be of a kind warranting compulsory confinement and (significantly) that the disorder must persist throughout the period of detention (Winterwerp v. Netherlands (1979) A 35). Nevertheless, case law favours the view that national authorities are entitled to exercise caution where a person may be a `danger to the public' (Harris et al. 1995: 123). It is interesting to note that, when dealing with mentally disordered offenders under the Criminal Justice Act 1991; English courts must first obtain a medical report and consider the likely effect of a custodial sentence on any mental condition and treatment that may be available, s4(3) (b).
There have been several English cases where no psychiatric assessment has been made(7) in circumstances where the offender did not appear prima facie `rational' and, although failure to provide medical treatment in detention is not in breach of Article 5 (1) (e) of the European Convention, it may amount to `inhuman treatment' contrary to Article 3. `Inhuman treatment' was defined by the Commission in the Greek case (1969) 12 YB 186 as `... such treatment as deliberately causes severe suffering, mental or physical, which, in the particular situation, is unjustifiable'. On this basis it may also be argued that the continued detention under the 1991 Criminal Justice Act protective sentencing provisions of an offender who has ceased to be dangerous falls within the provisions of Article 3. Beddard (1993: 154) further submits that if sentence lengths were `cruelly excessive' they might be questioned under Article 3, notwithstanding that the Convention does not provide for the length of sentences to be called into question provided they have been imposed by a competent court. It may be argued that mental anguish caused by unjustified continued preventative detention amounts to `torture' within the meaning of Article 3 (Ireland v. UK (1976) A 25) (Harris et al. 1995: 61). The right to be presumed innocent contained in Article 6(2) of the Convention deals only with proof of guilt and does not extend to matters concerning the kind or level of punishment that may arise in trial or appellate proceedings (Engel v. Netherlands (1976) A 26). There appears to be no requirement or right supported under the Convention establishing a basic standard of proof necessary for making predictive judgments as to dangerousness, nor any additional protection for mentally abnormal offenders in such circumstances. Finally, it is important to bear in mind two concepts applied in the general interpretation of the Convention. The first is concerned to assert that any interference with an offender's rights is not disproportionate(8) in the sense of achieving a fair balance between community interests and the protection of individual fundamental rights, and the second, the doctrine of a margin of appreciation, permits an unspecified measure of state discretion as regards legal, administrative or judicial action which might impinge on rights recognized by the Convention (see further Harris et al. 1995: chs 1 and 8). Both concepts emphasize the non-interventionist and consequentialist nature of Convention protection. As Harris et al. point out, `The overall scheme of the Convention is that initial and primary responsibility for the protection of human rights lies with the contracting parties' (1995: 14). Certainly, the `balance' between communitarian and individual interests asserted by the Convention is symptomatic of Ashworth's criticism that such terminology suppresses the need to consider the resolution of conflicting considerations.
It is evident from the foregoing analysis that the Convention adopts a minimalist approach to questions concerning the legitimacy of state sentencing policy and the protection of individual rights and, since no protection exists in domestic law as regards the potential injustices described, the maintenance of fundamental rights against procedural unfairness in this context has no empirical foundation. The argument not only illustrates the inadequacy of the European Convention on Human Rights as a vehicle for asserting rights that protect against the injustices described herein, but, more significantly in this context, it illustrates the need to employ a coherent theoretical approach designed to facilitate explanation and analysis of the relationship between legal and social processes which normative prescriptions per se cannot achieve. We cannot, therefore, begin to understand the forces that shape the empirical context by adopting a purely rights-based approach. Reform remains utopian unless theoretically grounded evaluation of causally related variables is first provided.
`Social models' of the criminal process suggest interpretations of reality necessarily absent in a rights-based approach. For example, paradigms derived from labelling theory stress symbolism in courtroom process and the extent of degradation; the way in which defendants are implicitly forced to acknowledge the legitimacy of the existing social order and accept the definitions of significant others. The labelling of a mentally abnormal offender is regarded as an implicit acceptance of the legitimacy of punishment, emphasizing the pathological nature of the offender's behaviour, which contributes to the process of degradation and denunciation. Models emphasizing power-related variables exploit the gap between the rhetoric and reality of the courtroom by stressing, for instance, the difference between the rhetoric contained in formal rules, which treat the defendant as a competent decision-maker (fully responsible and in control of his destiny), and, the reality of the formal process, recognizing that the perceptions of agents involved in the criminal justice process are conditioned by the institutional structure of rewards and sanctions. Values associated with dominance, alienation and suppression are re-enforced through the discretionary exercise of judicial power. The phenomenological context of any proposed analysis must also be evaluated (Hogarth 1971; King 1981).
Consequently, hypotheses generated through the adoption of a heuristic model could, for example, suggest that judicial perceptions of dangerous mentally abnormal offenders do not vary significantly according to judges' sex, age, social class, education, religion or political party affiliation. This hypothesis could be linked to others which take into account judicial views on punishment for mentally abnormal offenders and their perception and categorization of information relevant to sentencing such offenders (either generally, or, with respect to certain sorts of offences or offenders) or, with respect to norms of procedural fairness in the sentencing of mentally abnormal offenders. The rights approach regards the main role for empirical evidence as facilitating reasoned argument for minimal derogation from recognized fundamental rights (Ashworth 1994: 295). I would argue that to `balance' competing interests essentially recognizes the empirical reality of sentencing and an important first step towards coherence in sentencing policy should be a statement of carefully drawn principles and purposes reflecting agreed sentencing objectives and the priority to be accorded to competing interests (Nagel 1990; Fox 1993). However, this statement should be informed as far as possible by empirical investigation which should precede and be instrumental in the preliminary exercise to establish system aims.
A combination of sentencing process models may postulate reasons for the contravention of principles and procedures that can be investigated and assessed. Mere evaluation and assertion that fundamental rights are contravened have an empirical function which may suggest the further investigation of particular variables whose normative prescriptions reflect conflicting value positions. Thus, heuristic models can be used to empirically test hypotheses dealing with selective adherence to fundamental rights where, for example, the law is used as an instrument of suppression and degradation. Evidence of compliance or derogation from particular principles or rights obtained in a theoretical vacuum merely encourages the tendency towards retrospective theorizing (Downes and Rock 1995: 370). In short, it confirms the conceptual and analytical distinction between the heuristic function of process models and the emphasis on norms of procedural fairness implicit in the rights approach. As Madge states: `Without the interdependence of fact and theory, we are liable, on the one hand, to be served with a meaningless array of isolated correlations and with causal `explanations' unattached to any general theory ...' (1953: 8).
In the following section an attempt is made to demonstrate how recent theoretical work by Nobles and Schiff, and Giddens, can be used to conceptualize and evaluate the empirical manifestation of normative prescriptions operating in the criminal process. We have seen how, in the example of sentencing dangerous mentally abnormal offenders, there is no intellectual apparatus which will enable us to relate the mechanics of legal formalism to normative prescriptions (in this case the rights approach), still less to locate these within a theoretically sophisticated analysis of the criminal process. In what follows, I argue that a partial answer to our understanding the nature of the operation of rights is to be found in the reconstitution of systems discourse postulated in autopoietic theory as developed by Nobles and Schiff. However, more significantly, I also argue that Giddens's theory of structuration provides a macro-theoretical superstructure within which the mechanical operation of substantive legal rules and principles can be related to more sophisticated and significant aspects of relevant social structure, namely, the organizational and interactive aspects of the reproduction of social practices (in this case, the extent to which rights embodied in legal rules and principles can be identified, described, and their operation observed).
A Way Forward
Nobles and Schiff have recently suggested that our understanding of discourses on miscarriages of justice would benefit from being informed by the theory of autopoiesis developed by Teubner (see generally King 1993). Their purpose in so doing is to seek to identify ways in which criminal justice events are reconstituted within systems other than the legal system and `suggest reforms which may lead to greater congruence (`structural coupling') between the expectations which other systems have of law, and the ability of law to meet those expectations' (Nobles and Schiff 1995:301). In particular, autopoietic theory is used to explain how miscarriages of justice are constructed within different systems. A crucial variable in this analysis is the conceptualization of `justice as truth' and Nobles and Schiff take issue with Greer (1994) regarding the latter's failure to delineate adequately the relationship between due process (Greer's suggested model of criminal justice) and truth. In particular, Nobles and Schiff suggest that Greer is engaged in a false exercise by justifying reform from the basis of having adequately described flaws in the existing system, since he is concerned to make the legal system live up to its `rhetorical commitment' embodied in his adoption of due process as the model of criminal justice. Greer is criticized for failing to show `how' due process can degenerate into mechanistic legal formalism and stressing instead the importance of maintaining minimum ethical standards (Greer 1994: 60, 74). Greer takes the approach that process and rights models are comparable on the basis that they each represent different normative positions which can be tested against empirical fact. Greer accepts that there is no objective measure of what actually constitutes `truth' in the criminal process since such models cannot provide justifications or legitimize deviation from any normative commitment.
I argued earlier that this is essentially to misrepresent the main purpose of process models which is to act as heuristic devices rather than to establish prescriptive norms based on ethical principles to which social reality (the criminal process) is expected to conform. It is not surprising Greer concludes that the `injustice' of a particular circumstance may well depend upon which process theory is employed (1994: 61). It is on this basis that I have argued that the process theory approach is conceptually and analytically distinct from the rights approach whose chief function is indeed to stress the importance of minimum ethical standards. In other words, it is incorrect to conceive of process theory and the rights perspective as ontologically equivalent, although they can certainly be regarded as compatible. An important aspect of this relationship lies in the potential ability of heuristic models of the criminal process to suggest how reform might best be achieved in the `real world'. As McBarnet suggests (1981: 7, 8) the reality of the criminal process is determined by the forces that shape the organizational practices of the courts and, to that extent, the ability of normative models to act as vehicles for reform is severely circumscribed by the circumstances and conditions of that reality. However, this is not to say that normative principles (of whatever moral status) could not be found to provide an acceptable basis for practical legal reform. As Ashworth suggests (1979: 423) these are matters for social debate and political decision.
Nobles and Schiff also draw attention to the absence of any meta language or meta theory which would enable us to appreciate how the Report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (1993) is understood by different systems and, more particularly, how it may have been perceived as inappropriate or misinterpreted. Autopoietic theory can, therefore, help us to appreciate how concepts such as truth and justice are constructed within different systems (Nobles and Schiff 1995: 319). In summary, Nobles and Schiff employ the systems approach of autopoietic theory as a heuristic device to elucidate the conceptualization of `miscarriages of justice'. Having identified the conceptual and analytical disjunction between due process and rights approaches earlier in this paper I suggested that a compromise solution might be a recognition that both approaches were capable of complementing each other provided a paradigmatic approach was adopted to the empirical question of `how' rights are exercised or abrogated. The approach adopted by Nobles and Schiff could elucidate the construction of discourses in systems outside the legal process to widen our understanding of other systems' perceptions of rights and how they are, or should be, exercised.(9) For example, as regards the sentencing of dangerous mentally abnormal offenders, autopoietic theory could help us to conceptualize discourses of `mental abnormality' and how these determine disposal. Further, it has been noted that the discretionary life sentence in English law has generally been regarded as appropriate in circumstances where the mental state of offenders makes them dangerous to the public. Autopoietic theory could be employed to analyse the contexual development of the reasons for the recent change of emphasis in the approach to the discretionary life sentence which further diminishes the significance of mental `rationality' in favour of the assessment of `dangerousness' (Attorney General's Reference (No. 32 of 1996) (Whittaker)  Crim. LR 917). The competing legal and medical interpretations of `dangerousness' itself, so important in the determination and continuation of preventative detention, is also a potentially fruitful area for the application of autopoietic theory to develop an understanding of the construction of these competing discourses and the law's ability to conform to their expectations. While autopoietic theory can be used to elucidate the legal and social meanings of criminal justice processes, macro-sociological theory is necessary to identify and articulate the forces that shape the operation of legal rules and concomitant rights as ongoing processes within the criminal justice system. My specific purpose here, however, is to address the wider issue of whether a theoretical context appropriate to the analysis of rights can be usefully articulated. I would argue that the theory of structuration postulated by Giddens may provide a way forward (Giddens 1979, 1982, 1984).
The macro-sociological theory of structuration developed by Giddens regards structuration as the production and reproduction across time and space of social practices (Giddens 1982: 8). Giddens adopts the notion that neither subject (human agency) nor object (society or social institutions) should be regarded as having primacy and that each is constituted in and through recurrent practices. Giddens's notion of human action distinguishes the two concepts of `knowledgeability' and `capability'. The former refers to either discursive consciousness (what social actors are able to say about their activities) or practical consciousness (what they are not able to formulate discursively but which is knowledge utilized in the course of social interaction or particular courses of conduct). `Capability' describes the process whereby individuals choose between alternative courses of conduct. Giddens's analysis of action adopts the notion that the unintended consequences of human action are involved in social reproduction and that they themselves become conditions of action subject to their rationalization by social actors (Giddens 1982: 30-2). `Institutions' are described as structured social practices which exist over time and space and receive the support and acknowledgement of society by consensus, while `structure' refers to `rules and resources instantiated in social systems but having only a virtual existence' (Giddens 1982: 9). Giddens describes the theory of structuration in the following extract:
The structured properties of society, the study of which is basic to explaining the long-term development of institutions, `exist' only in their instantiation in the structuration of social systems, and in the memory traces (reinforced or altered in the continuity of daily social life) that constitute the knowledgeability of social actors. But institutional practices `happen' and are `made to happen' through the application of resources in the continuity of daily life. Resources are structured properties of social systems but `exist' only in the capability of actors, in their capacity to `act otherwise'. This brings me to an essential feature of the theory of structuration, the thesis that the organization of social practices is fundamentally recursive. Structure is both the medium and the outcome of the practices it recursively organizes. (author's emphasis; 1982: 9-10)
Giddens, therefore, draws a clear distinction between system and structure. The former is regarded as existing only through the process of structuration while structure is regarded as property of a particular social system, not the activities of social actors. Structural properties (rules and resources) are non-temporal and non-spatial existing only as particular moments in the constitution of social systems. Crucially, social institutions constitute the medium through which the structural properties are applied in the `continuity of daily life' or, in other words, both rules and resources constitute the medium through which institutional practices are created and reproduced in social institutions. Giddens's theorization helps us to conceptualize three different levels of analysis relevant to the present context. At the primary, or legal level, we are concerned to describe the nature and extent of those rights which have been accorded to defendants and victims within the sentencing process. The foundation for rights must be either the European Convention or some other fundamental or widely accepted notion or principle (Ashworth 1996: 229). In terms of the theory of structuration rights are to be regarded as an aspect of structural properties (rules and resources). At the secondary, or organizational level, we are concerned to describe the ways in which information concerning rights in the sentencing process is both conveyed and received by sentencers. This requires analytical and quantitative description of organizational reality and, in Giddens's terms, is seen as part of system, namely, regular organized social practices (modes of social interaction where structural properties are implemented) within a social institution.
The final, or interactive, level of analysis is concerned with the extent of adherence to rights in the sentencing process and the investigation of variables which are instrumental to our understanding of this aspect of social reality. We are, therefore, concerned with the extent to which structural properties (rights) are applied by social actors (sentencers) through the mechanism of one particular social institution (the criminal courts). This requires evaluation of sentencers' attitudes, perceptions and penal philosophies and their relationship to the operation of those rights under investigation. In Giddens's terminology, we are concerned with the concepts of `knowledgeability' and `capability'. However, the wider relationships between law and power, authority and social control can also be explored within this context since Giddens links the concept of power to that of action by describing power as the capability of individual social actors to secure their own ends even against the will of others. Giddens describes the operation of his concept of power within the context of the theory of structuration in the following terms:
Resources are the media whereby power is employed in the routine course of social action; but they are at the same time structural elements of social systems, reconstituted in social interaction. Social systems are constituted as regularised practices, reproduced across time and space; power in social systems can thus be treated as involving reproduced relations of autonomy and dependence in social interaction. (author's emphasis; 1982: 39)
Hence, Giddens regards the notion of resource as the crucial variable in the analysis of power. Resources are capable of being constituted as structures of domination and, as an aspect of structural properties, can be evaluated in terms of their historical duration and transformation over time (1982: 36).
I would suggest that Giddens's analysis can be related to the sentencing of dangerous mentally abnormal offenders in the following way. Given that rights are formulated in terms of normative propositions that do not exist in reality as substantive principles, the analysis of rights connected to the process of sentencing dangerous mentally abnormal offenders is essentially concerned with identifying, describing and explaining substantive rights issues (Henham 1997). The rights of mentally abnormal offenders in this context can be seen as part of the legal level of analysis, and, in Giddens's terms, an aspect of structure as structural properties (rules and resources). An examination of the operation of legal rules might indicate breaches of substantive rights in specific contexts such as, for example, the sentencing of dangerous mentally abnormal offenders under s2(2)(b) Criminal Justice Act 1991. These would include breach or derogation from the right to be presumed innocent and, as regards review procedures, the right not to be detained without conviction, where the defendant has not been convicted of any further offence justifying detention beyond the point where he has ceased to be dangerous.
At the organizational level we are concerned to determine how information relevant to violation of rights might come to the attention of sentencers dealing with dangerous mentally abnormal offenders. This includes the extent to which organizational and bureaucratic processes are relevant to the operation of legal rules and principles that affect the degree to which rights are adhered to, for example the training of sentencers, or the communication of information as part of the court process (such as medical and psychiatric reports). As part of Giddens's theorization this phenomenon represents an aspect of system whereby reproduced relations between actors are collectively organized as regular social practices and, as such, their existence is attributable exclusively to the process of structuration.
The interactive level is concerned with ways in which the `human factor' affects the process of sentencing dangerous mentally abnormal offenders, namely, to what extent judicial social background characteristics determine attitude, perception and sentencing philosophy when sentencing such offenders (Hogarth 1971). The epistemology of the decision-making process is extraordinarily complex yet central to the application of Giddens's theory of structuration in this context, since structuration is essentially concerned with the conditions which govern the application of structured properties by social actors. Those conditions which govern the sentence decision-making process coincidentally determine the continuity and transformation of structure which, in this context, includes the substantive principles determining the ambit of rights. The key to the process of structuration being that it is fundamentally recursive since `Structure is both the medium and outcome of the practices it recursively organizes' (Giddens 1982: 10).
Giddens's theorization, therefore, enables us to produce a multi-faceted appreciation of how the sentencing of dangerous mentally abnormal offenders is practised and sustained as a social process and, additionally, a substantive evaluation of the extent to which normative prescriptions translate into abrogation or adherence to rights as empirical reality. Although systems theory helps us to conceptualize the construction of social phenomena both by and within discrete areas of social structure and, therefore, contributes to our understanding of how moral and ethical prescriptions are translated into substantive principles, Giddens goes further by providing a conceptual framework within which to locate and explain complex interactions involving power, structure, process and practice. As such, structuration may suggest a coherent sociological theorization appropriate for the analysis of the criminal process.(10)
It is significant that the theory of structuration to a large extent succeeds in integrating legal and sociological variables since it is conceived at a high level of abstraction. It, therefore, deals with some shortcomings of more conventional theoretical formulations of the criminal process mentioned earlier in this paper. Traditional approaches are frequently relevant to more than one level of analysis. For example, those theoretical approaches relevant to legal aspects of the sentencing process might include due process, crime control, liberal bureaucratic, conflict and Marxist perspectives, yet the liberal bureaucratic perspective is also relevant to the organizational level of analysis and conflict and Marxist perspectives predominantly relevant to the interactive level. Although it may be argued that there is some difficulty in operationalizing higher order concepts within the theory of structuration, I would suggest that these problems are more likely to be overcome than those posed by an attempted synthesis of theories conceived at different levels of abstraction or in such relative isolation that it is impossible to demonstrate any link with wider social theory. Notwithstanding that the theory of structuration is developed at a high level of abstraction utilizing higher order concepts, lower order theoretical formulations and concepts can be subsumed, evaluated or rejected within this framework. By this I mean that the theory provides a framework within which lower-order theories dealing with different levels of abstraction can be conceptually and analytically related to one another, in such a way that an evaluation of their empirical significance can be obtained within a coherent theoretical context. An example is the link between the due process approach and Marxist theory, the former focusing on legalistic criteria such as the operation of the presumption of innocence, and the latter focusing on higher-order concepts such as alienation, suppression and class domination relevant to more than one analytical level.
Structuration theory also locates legal rules and principles as an element of structure and, therefore, as part of the essential mechanism for the reproduction of social systems. It, therefore, has the distinct advantage of facilitating an examination of legal principle as simultaneously related to other aspects of social reality such as power, authority and social control rather than examining the legal system as a closed social system. In employing Giddens I do not suggest that ethical principles can in any way be derived through employing a theoretical device to facilitate the description of empirical reality, in the same way that the reverse holds true. Hence, using a normative model such as the rights approach to provide a set of principles against which to compare reality will not reveal the existence of variables which might be relevant to determining whether these normative principles are observed or not. Although it does not seek to justify or legitimate courses of action, social theory can be usefully adopted as a framework within which these variables can be identified and examined as a coherent whole. The theory of structuration provides an appropriate framework to take account of the socio-legal nature of research into the criminal process, since it is capable of integrating both legal and sociological aspects of such research in terms of both theoretical propositions and research methodology. For example, theoretical approaches conceived in relative isolation (such as the liberal-bureaucratic model) can be linked with wider social theory and, once integrated with other approaches, take account of such deficiency in the construction of a coherent whole. The constituent theoretical parts would be complementary rather than contradictory, since they would examine the operation of the criminal process from a multiplicity of previously unconnected lower-order theoretical formulations. As such, I suggest that the theory of structuration provides a distinctive vehicle for pursuing an integrated theoretical analysis of the nature, operation and evaluation of human rights in the sentencing process.
(1) The notion of `balance' was emphatically rejected by Dworkin in the following terms: `... striking "the right balance" between the interests of the individual and the interests of the community as a whole merely restates the problem. Indeed, it is worse than a mere restatement because the interests of each individual are already balanced into the interests of the community as a whole, and the idea of a further balance, between their separate interests and the results of the first balance, is itself therefore mysterious' (1981: 19.4).
(2) Bottoms and McClean (1976: 226-32) elaborated Packer's typology by adding a third model which they termed the `Liberal Bureaucratic' model. This accords in part with Packer's due process model, but, differs in the respect that due process should necessarily place a restriction on the quantitative output of the system. They stress that the due process element in the system should have limits, both for administrative and bureaucratic reasons.
(3) The pilot study of Ashworth et al. (1984) was not allowed to progress beyond the preliminary stage.
(4) Since 1991 sentencing policy has increasingly been based on political pragmatism rather than reasoned argument based upon empirical research. The Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 is a recent example of what Bottoms has aptly described as `populist punitiveness' (Bottoms 1995: 39).
(5) This analysis excludes the operation of s2 Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 (automatic life sentences for repeat `serious' violent and sexual offenders) which came into force on 1 October 1997, and is based on principles of collective incapacitation.
(6) Lord Lane CJ stated in Rv. Wilkinson (1983) 5 Cr. App. R (S) 105 that, with a few exceptions, discretionary life sentences are reserved' ... for offenders who for one reason or another cannot be dealt with under the Mental Health Act, yet who are in a mental state which makes them dangerous to the life or limb of members of the public'.
(7) See for example Rv. Coull (1993) 15 Cr. App. R (S) 305, Rv. Hashi (1994) 16 Cr. App. R(S) 121,  Crim LR 618. In Rv. Fawcett (1994) 16 Cr. App. R(S) 55,  Crim LR 704 the Court of Appeal emphasised the desirability of obtaining a psychiatric report in any case where there was any question of mental disorder. Although not mandatory tinder s2 (2) (b) it is a general requirement tinder s4 Criminal Justice Act 1991 when passing a custodial sentence other than one fixed by law that a medical report be obtained in any case where a pre-sentence report is obligatory under s3 (1) and the offender is, or appears to be, mentally disordered, unless the court is of the opinion that it is unnecessary. However, the impact of this provision has been weakened since the obligation to obtain and consider a pre-sentence report before deciding on an adult custodial sentence no longer exists (Schedule 9, paragraph 40, Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994).
(8) The proportionality issue bas been considered relevant in deciding whether an individual was of `unsound mind' within Article 5(1) (e) of the Convention and the Strasbonrg court has also indicated that where alternative methods to pursue social policies existed a state should not choose to adopt a way which might violate an offender's individuals rights; Marckx v. Belgium (1979) A 31. It was suggested that the proportionality point could be taken in connection with the last Conservative government's proposed sentencing reforms as it has in the case of administrative penalties (Nash and Furse 1996). In the United States `Three Strikes' laws have been declared `cruel and unusual' within the proportionality principle embodied in the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution were considered to be out of all proportion to the offence (Sze 1995).
(9) King suggests that autopoietic theory permits researchers to concentrate on three specific areas, namely, the internal operations of different systems, the interfaces between these systems and the different social worlds of meaning that each constructs. In this respect, it may operate as a `liberating force' from conventional social science explanations which evaluate the operation of the law from external criteria derived from social science explanations (King 1993: 230).
(10) The theory of structuration satisfies a number of other significant requirements for a social theory which would enable us to appreciate the socio-legal nature of research into the criminal process. The theory is capable of locating legal rules and principles as an element of structure and, therefore, as part of the essential mechanism for the reproduction of social systems. Law is not examined in isolation and then related to other features of the social system such as power, authority and social control. Secondly, since the theory is developed at a high level of abstraction utilizing higher order concepts, lower order theoretical formulations and concepts can, therefore, be subsumed, evaluated or rejected within this framework. Further, the theory has the advantage that it is non-deterministic in that it does not adopt the position that human action is the determined outcome of social causes. Finally, the theory of structuration deals capably with both objective and subjective conceptions of social reality since, while it attempts to retain an element of subjectivism it also offers some explanation of the origins of subjectivity through emphasizing the recursive nature of the operation of social practices through the application of structured properties by social actors. Different aspects can be conceptualized within this theoretical framework in terms of the legal, organizational and interactive levels of analysis. It may also be possible to integrate specific concepts and processes identified as central concerns of other theoretical approaches within the framework of structuration theory since the latter is conceived as an abstract macro-theoretical formulation.
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RALPH HENHAM, Professor of Law, Nottingham University, UK. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference, University of Wales, Cardiff 1997. I am grateful to Paul Roberts for helpful suggestions.
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|Publication:||British Journal of Criminology|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1998|
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