May 20th — Xin Dai: Evaluations in Sentencing Remarks of Murder Cases in England and Wales


One important function of sentencing is its expressive or censoring function (Ashworth 2010). What are expressed by sentencing? Ashworth held that sentencing is to translate judgments into “the particular penal currency of this country at this time” (Ashworth 2010, p. 74). In other words, sentencing principles, i.e. penal currency, would differ in terms of time and countries which carry out the sentencing practice. There are several rationales of making sentences, e.g. deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, desert, social theories, and reparation or restoration (Ashworth 2010, p. 78). However those rationales do not constitute an aggregate whole with an overarching aim; rather different rationales would lead to different sentencing results and not infrequently, conflicting sentencing results.

What sentencing rationale(s) are prevalent in the courts of England and Wales? I try to approach the question by focusing on evaluations in sentencing remarks. As sentencing rationales may also differ based on offence types, I will focus on just one type of cases – murder cases to explore what sentencing rationales are reflected in the sentencing remarks.

The analysis of evaluations in sentencing remarks will be initially based on Martin and White’s  (2005) framework on appraisal. However, the final result of my analysis of evaluation would come up with evaluative parameters (Bednarek 2006, 2008) in sentencing remarks. And those evaluative parameters would in turn reflect the sentencing rationales held by judges, which would further lead my investigation of the rationales held by judges and that prescribed by sentencing guidelines or other statutes.



Ashworth, A. 2010. Sentencing and criminal justice. 5th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Bednarek, M. 2006. Evaluation in media discourse: analysis of a newspaper corpus. New York and London: Continuum.


Bednarek, M. 2008. ‘An increasingly familiar tragedy’: Evaluative collocation and conflation. Functions of Language 15(1), pp. 7-34.


Martin, J. R. and White, P. 2005. The language of evaluation: appraisal in English. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.