Communicating Justice: Alternative Judicial Approaches

Sharyn Roach Anleu, Kathy Mack

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


There’s no point having this person sitting in court and you directing your remarks to their solicitor or barrister or to thin air, umm, I think it’s been shown in the past that for an order of the court to have any chance of success, the person you’re imposing it on has to know what’s required of them, umm, and to that extent I like to speak to them directly. I don’t use a lot of legalese, I’m very, I suppose in terms of other people, informal in the manner in which I deliver my sentences and, not so much my decisions as to guilt or otherwise but certainly my sentences I tend to reduce to the most simplistic, umm, way I can, umm, just to avoid them going outside and saying, ‘what did she say’, umm but as I say my, the feedback from students who come into my court is that there’s
not a lot of others who do that, umm, they just seem to deliver, that’s not a critical, I’m certainly not being critical of them, I could understand that some may be critical of me but umm my feeling from feedback is that most just use the legalese, don’t address themselves directly to the accused, which in the past has been the way and I acknowledge
that, but it’s just not something I do.

These comments from an interview with an Australian magistrate2 emphasise communication with defendants: ‘I like to speak to them directly’, rather than via ‘their solicitor or barrister’ which legal convention would prescribe. These reflections demonstrate awareness of the interactional and relational nature of everyday work. The magistrate suggests that, as the primary audience for ‘directing your [sentencing] remarks’ is the defendant, the mode of communication is significant ‘for an order of the court to have any chance of success’. Here she emphasises the special nature of sentencing, and the potential for the penalty to have a positive impact on changing the behaviour of the defendant. This judicical officer describes consciously changing language when communicating with defendants: ‘I don’t use a lot of legalese ... [and] my
sentences, I tend to reduce to the most simplistic [language].’ This also indicates her awareness of the social capital – socio- economic class and education – differences she perceives between herself and typical criminal offenders. However, it is not just language that she relies on to communicate her decision: ‘I’m very ... informal in the manner in which I deliver my sentences’. She wants the person being sentenced to understand what is happening and ‘to know what is required of them’. While she may (or may not) intend to manage the emotions
of the defendant (or of others) through her informal approach and use of simple language, it is possible such direct communication will affect how the defendant feels about the legal process. Nonetheless, this magistrate acknowledges that other judicial officers deliver the sentencing decision differently: ‘most just use the legalese, don’t address themselves directly to the accused
... which in the past has been the way'

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJustice Alternatives
EditorsPat Carlen, Leandro Ayres Franca
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-429-46817-9
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-60532-9, 978-1-138-60533-6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • emotion work
  • judicial officers
  • judging


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