Contextual Culpability: How Drinking and Social Context Impact upon Sentencing of Violence

Article (Criminology and Criminal Justice)

Blogpost (University of Liverpool)

The controversial effect of intoxication on sentencing outcomes has received renewed attention with a series of new empirical studies. However, these studies have relied on survey data that conflates alcohol and drug intoxication and misses pertinent contextual features of the offence. This article explores how alcohol intoxication, and its social context, impact upon sentence outcomes for violent offences. To do so, the probability of custodial sentence severity is modelled using multilevel Cox regression using data from online sentence transcripts. Findings contribute insights into how punishment is shaped by not only the presence of alcohol intoxication in offending, but also in which contexts, by highlighting the significant punitive effects of reference to concomitant drug use, the defendant drinking together with the victim, and if the offence occurred in a private setting. This helps clarify complex considerations taken into account by sentencers when processing cases and the need for clearer guidance.

Intoxication and Assault: An Analysis of Crown Court Practices in England and Wales

Article (British Journal of Criminology)

Little is known about how the Sentencing Council’s guidance to treat intoxication as aggravation is applied in practice. With reference to assault offences, this study examines: whether intoxication has an aggravating effect; whether this is moderated through other characteristics of the case; and whether any effect is consistent across Crown Court locations. The probability of custody and sentence severity are modelled using (ordered) logit multilevel models and data from the Crown Court Sentencing Survey. The probability of receiving a custodial or severe sentence when intoxication features is increased, however, is moderated if the offence is deemed an isolated incident. Effects are relatively consistent across Crown Court locations, however ongoing monitoring of how intoxication shapes sentencing practice it is encouraged.