Supreme Court judges in full regalia. © Penny Stephens/Fairfax Syndication.
Supreme Court judges in full regalia. © Penny Stephens/Fairfax Syndication.

Assessing an offender’s remorse

Staging Remorse investigates how judges assess an offender’s remorse in the criminal justice system.

In most common law jurisdictions worldwide, the apparent presence of remorse can greatly impact a person’s sentence and their parole date, and yet it is unclear how it is evaluated.

With access to judicial officers and to private meetings of the New South Wales State Parole Authority, Staging Remorse studies how decision-makers’ assess offenders’ remorse. The research involves:

  •  interviewing judges, magistrates, lawyers, forensic psychiatrists and psychologists, caseworkers, parole authorities, offenders, and victims of crime
  •  documenting court hearings, public parole hearings and private parole meetings.

Staging Remorse is influencing the working practices of justice system practitioners, and it has the potential to impact on legislation.

Along with writing for scholarly journals, Dr Rossmanith has had two essays published in The Monthly. The first one, The Work of Judges (2012), teases out the impact of sentencing legislation on the working lives of judges. It is cited by the Parliament of Victoria, and in 2013 it was nominated for a Walkley Award.

The second, The Release Plan (2013), draws on fieldwork conducted by Dr Rossmanith with offenders on parole. In October 2013, Judge Ian Pike (the then Chair of the NSW State Parole Authority) drew on the essay as a key text during his presentation at the Australasian Parole Authorities Conference.

Both essays are promoted by Victoria’s Sentencing Advisory Council as educative resources for the community and for secondary school legal studies.

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