Evaluation of court visit

Because the original cases heard had already been disposed off (sentences had already been handed out for the original crime and the punishment was a community punishment), and the hearings were mainly due to breach of community punishment. I have decided to relate my court visit to Von Hirshe 1993, who argues, in principle that the punishment should fit the crime and not the offender.

Taking this into consideration, the defendants were in court for breach of order, so as an observer, I decided to disregard what brought them to court in the first place, which could have been related better to the key readings (this was unfortunate because I could have make comparisons, such as ethnicity, gender and age, and mental status) For example if two juveniles were charged with the same offence, would their appearance, age, gender have affected how they became arrested and could it off affected the outcome.

Because defendants were being disposed off using a continuation order, I have decided to apply Von Hirshe 1993, and deliberate on whether he would agree with the continuation order, which were what offenders were sentenced too and a does this embrace the 'just deserts' punitive model, which is what the criminal justice system is moving towards. Von Hirshe 1993 champions the 'just deserts' model and argued, the nature of the crime, and any previous convictions should determine the sentence.

He furthers his argument by suggesting it is wrong to be harsh if it is not justified, therefore the sentence should be proportionate to the offence committed. When relating this to the cases I observed, all defendants who breached their order, whether it was the first, second or third time, received a continuation order. Apart from one defendant who had not shown up to court and had never attended any probation appointments was issued a warrant for his arrest in his absence.

Had he come to court he may have received the same sentence as the others. Would Von Hirshe 1993, support the standardising of 'continuation order', despite the fact some offenders, had missed several appointments compared to some who had not turned up to any (but had turned up to court). It could be argued that their continuation orders, did not fit the offence committed because some defendants continually came through the court system with the same breach, where as others had breached for the first time.

In principle Von Hirshe would agree, breaching an order, could warrant a continuation order, because the crime is not severe, however he would argue, their history of breach should be taken in account when issuing fines. He may argue a longer community punishment should be served, as well as a fine. He may agree using the just deserts module that depending on the amount of times appointments were missed (this is the crime), should reflect in the length of community punishment imposed.

Stephenson (1992) argues, the criminal justice system attempts to adopt a quasi-experimental approach, this was observed in the court that I sat in, because defendants were given the same sentence 'continuation of order'. Whereas the just deserts model could take into account number of times late, no show to appointments (this is the crime). Douglas (1989) argues sentences imposed, which have formulas, are not 'just' and that a sentence should fit the offender and the crime. Douglas would argue, factors such as not turning up for appointments or previous history of breach should be taken into account.

This would make it a 'justice deserved' sentence, because defendants could be measured, by the proportions of no shows, or late appointments. However after reviewing the literature, if the criminal justice model is shifting towards more punitive sanctions 'just deserts', then it could be argued that continuation orders will need to examined, if Von Hirshe's theory of proportionality is to be embraced. However, this could slow down the criminal justice system for trivial cases such as breach of order.

Douglas (1989) ideals in theory make sense, because the court observation uncovered that defendants who had breached an order once were given the same continuation order as other defendants who had breached several times. However, although it may appear unfair to some, the quasi-experimental approach of standardising sentences, as Stephenson (1992) points out, without looking at mitigating circumstance serves an economical purpose. It allows the disposal of trivial cases, which enables the criminal justice system to operate more efficiently, as observed in my court visit.