Respect and Legitimacy at Sentencing: November 2021

By Gabrielle Watson
This paper introduces the concepts of respect and legitimacy and considers their relevance to sentencing practice in England and Wales.
A review of research reveals that relatively little is known about defendants’ perceptions of legitimacy at sentencing, and even less about their perceptions of respect, despite the dominance of these concepts elsewhere in criminal justice, notably in policing and procedural justice (see, e.g., Tankebe and Liebling 2013, Tyler 2008, and Watson 2020).
The paper defines respect and legitimacy and the relationship between the two and then locates the concepts in current sentencing research. It calls for academics and practitioners to highlight respect and legitimacy as fundamentally pragmatic concepts in the sentencing context and work towards building a robust body of research on this theme.
What practical benefits might derive from greater integration of these concepts into the sentencing process? One possibility is that demonstrable instances of respect and legitimacy have the capacity to enhance citizen-state relations and promote offender compliance with the sentence imposed.
1 If this were shown to be true, we might then elevate respect and legitimacy to the status of institutional standards: as indicators that the sentencing process is functioning well.
Read the full report here.