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Journal of Experimental Criminology

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 131–161

First Online: 05 May 2007


This article examines the gap between Dutch judges and the public in terms of preferred severity of sentences. It focuses on one particular explanation usually given for the gap: the lack of case-specific, detailed information on the part of the general public. Findings from three studies are reported and combined: a a survey among a sample from the Dutch population N = 2,127, b a sentencing experiment with judges in Dutch criminal courts N = 180, and c a sentencing experiment, using the same case materials as with judges, but now with a sample from the Dutch population N = 917. Results show that providing the public with detailed case information indeed reduces severity of sentences preferred. Moreover, those members of the public who were given short and unbalanced newspaper reports preferred much harsher sentences than did those who were given the full case files. However, despite such a reduction in punitiveness as a result of information, the public’s preferred sentences remain much more punitive than judges’ sentences pertaining to exactly the same case files.

KeywordsPublic opinion Punitiveness Role of information Sentence severity The Dutch Council for the administration of justice Raad voor de rechtspraak financed part of this project. We are grateful for their support.

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Autor: Jan W. de Keijser - Peter J. van Koppen - Henk Elffers


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