Sentencing in Criminal Justice System: Towards a Common European Perspective 
(A Comparative Approach in Common and Continental Law Systems)

Principal Investigator: Demetra Sorvatzioti

Affiliation: School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, Department of Law, University of Nicosia


Aims and Objectives

European States have a positive obligation to provide offenders with alternatives to incarceration and effective choices for treatment either in the community or in prison. Case law should provide full justification for sentence determination according to art. 6 ECHR.  This ensures fair sentencing. Moreover, a State’s crime policy should effectively combat recidivism and reduce social harm.

The Sentencing Project aimed to provide a comparative analysis among the modern common law legal system of Canada, the dated common law criminal system of Cyprus and the continental system of Greece.

This research had two major angles:

  • Comparative analysis of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure provisions in respect of sentencing determination and trial fairness,

  • Sentencing alternatives, treatment and recidivism.

Outcomes- Summary

Canada has not only reached a demanding level of sentencing process (i.e. detailed pre-sentence report, victim impact statement, expert witnesses) but has also established the importance of individualized therapeutic plans for the offenders (i.e. Drug Treatment Courts (DTCs) and sexual offenders’ treatment programs).

A common European approach for sentencing should require a separate sentencing trial. Moreover, it should envisage tools for the judge to estimate the appropriate sentence and secure fairness for the accused, the victim and the society.

Treatment programs should be provided when there is a casual link between crime and deviation(i.e. sexual)or an addiction. Treatment to be effective should focus mostly on the offender’s individual needs because it reduces her/his risk of recidivism. Respect for each offender’s fundamental right to health, either in the community or in prison meet the State’s positive obligation according to the European Convention of Human Rights.  It also enhances public safety.

This research proposedlaw amendments for both Cypriot and Greek criminal law and procedure codesto ensurefair sentencing trials for victims and accused.

Regarding drug addicted offenders, the Canadian Drug Treatment Court (DTC) model reduces reoffending risk and is less expensive for taxpayers compared to incarceration. Through this project two detailed proposals for the establishment of pilot DTCs in Cyprus and Greece have been drafted.

For sexual offenders, the Canadian model of treatment during incarceration, as developed  by William Marshall, reduces recidivism risk and social harm. The proposal for Greece and Cyprus is to provide the sexual offender population with cognitive behavioral treatment programs during incarceration or pending trial.

Given the common law tradition of the Cypriot criminal system, the proposed legal amendments for sentencing trials, and the DTC pilot project can be implemented quite smoothly.

Given the traditional role of the continental judge in Greece and the response of the criminal justice system to drug addiction therapy,  Greece could adopt a pilot DTC Court.