Contemporary Issues in Sentencing Seminar: Durham University

The Sentencing Academy was delighted to co-host a seminar on Contemporary Issues in Sentencing with Durham Law School on Wednesday 11 October 2023. The seminar series brings together speakers working on current aspects of sentencing policy and practice. Presentations are aimed at a general audience and the events are designed to allow ample time for discussion after the papers have been delivered.

The three papers at Durham demonstrate the diversity of topics discussed in the seminars. Our first speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Tiarks who is an Assistant Professor at Northumbria University, presented on ‘AI and Sentencing’. Whilst highlighting the potential for AI to improve sentencing outcomes, Elizabeth cautioned that a number of fundamental issues need to be addressed. She was followed by Gavin Dingwall, Head of Policy and Communications at the Sentencing Academy, who spoke about the ‘Future of Parole’. Gavin has co-authored (with Megan Millar) a forthcoming paper for the Sentencing Academy which details recent changes and future directions in parole. Gavin’s paper discussed some key issues arising from the paper. Finally, Becky Childs, Restorative Justice Service Manager, and Nicola Wijesinghe, Restorative Justice Court Worker for Safer Communities, discussed ‘Restorative Justice and Sentencing’. This paper provided a rich overview of the work that Becky and Nicola are doing and included the perspectives of those participating.

The event was well attended mostly by students and academics from Durham University with some representation from Durham Probation Service, Office of the Cleveland Police Crime Commissioner, a consultant working within the parole field and a representative from the Scottish Sentencing Council. The diverse mix of delegates enriched the question and answer session for the panel focusing in on the practical application of AI and restorative justice in the sentencing process.

Sarah McManus, Director of Operations for the Sentencing Academy, said: “The event highlighted the breadth of sentencing as a discipline and provided an opportunity to share local knowledge and expertise in the region. We are very grateful to Durham Law School for hosting and helping to arrange the seminar and look forward to working with them in the future”.