Prosecuting Extremists in the United Kingdom: An Exploration of Charging, Prosecution and Sentencing Outcomes
This project undertakes a comprehensive review and amalgamation of the existing academic literature relating to the charging, prosecution and sentencing of extremist actors. It will also include consideration of the wider criminological and criminal justice literature on the prosecution landscape of non-extremist actors to identify potential variables of interest.
Until now, the existence of three distinct legal jurisdictions in operation within the United Kingdom (UK), and different counting practices, has limited the capacity to analyse overall trends and compare jurisdictional data with respect to perpetrators of terrorism-related offences. Thus, very little is known about the prosecution and punishment of extremist actors and whilst the official data can inform us of the number of persons charged, prosecuted, convicted etc. in each jurisdiction, there is a general absence of detail on this topic. Despite indications of inconsistencies across jurisdictions and the potential impact of extraneous variables on prosecution and sentencing (e.g. racial or ethnic background of the offender), there exists a lack of research and investigation of the prosecution landscape for extremist actors.
This innovative project seeks to plug this gap, through six distinct stages:
- Stage 1 will involve a comprehensive review and amalgamation of the existing academic literature relating to the charging, prosecution and sentencing of extremist actors. It will also include consideration of the wider criminological and criminal justice literature on the prosecution landscape of non-extremist actors to identify potential variables of interest.
- Stage 2 will involve the creation of a database of prosecuted extremist actors in the UK from a variety of open-source information.
- Stage 3 will use the knowledge gained from the literature review to inform specific research questions which the projet will address through qualitative interviews with relevant key criminal justice stakeholders with respect to the prosecution landscape for extremist actors.
- Stage 4 will provide a content analysis of a sample of sentencing remarks from criminal cases involving extremist actors. The findings will support the development of working hypotheses about the factors that shape sentencing outcomes, which the research team will empirically test.
- Stage 5 will quantitatively test hypotheses relating to charging and prosecution (informed by interviews) and relating to sentencing outcomes (informed by interviews and content analysis) via statistical analysis of the database.
- Stage 6 will involve a synthesis of the findings of the research and the formulation of recommendations aimed at addressing any apparent biases or underuse of the law identified from the research, both within and across jurisdictional boundaries.