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Location and Sentencing: To What Extent Do Contextual Factors Explain between Court Disparities?

British Journal of Criminology

Published online on


This article investigates the presence of unwarranted between court disparities in England and Wales, examining whether they can be explained by non-legal contextual factors such as the organisation of the court and socio-economic composition of the area. In contrast with previous literature, we emphasise the importance of controlling for a wide range of legally relevant case characteristics. The findings reveal that some preliminary startling trends, such as more severe sentencing in courts located in neighbourhoods with high proportions of Muslim residents, are in fact accounted for by differences in the cases reviewed across courts. These findings call into question the validity of previous studies exploring the influence of the context on sentencing that did not adequately control for legal factors.