Censure and Proportionality

Andrew von Hirsch

in Censure and Sanctions

Published in print February 1996 | ISBN: 9780198262411
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682339 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice

Censure and Proportionality

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The principle of proportionality — that sanctions be proportionate in their severity to the gravity of offences — appears to be a requirement of justice. People have a sense that punishments which comport with the gravity of offences are more equitable than punishments that do not. This chapter examines two kinds of desert-based general justifications that have attracted recent philosophical attention. One theory sees the institution of punishment as rectifying the ‘unfair advantage’ which lawbreakers obtain by offending. The other focuses on punishment's role as expressing censure or reprobation. With each theory, the chapter asks whether it supports proportionate sanctions, and how convincingly it does so. It begins with the ‘unfair advantage’ theory. A brief analysis will suggest that the theory, apart from its intrinsic perplexities, provides poor support for the principle of proportionality.

Keywords: proportionality; justice; punishments; censure; proportionate sanctions; unfair advantage

Chapter.  6486 words. 

Subjects: Criminal Law

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