Narratives of crime and punishment : a study of Scottish judicial culture
This thesis explores recent Scottish penal culture through the biographical narrative accounts of retired judges. Insights from the sociology of punishment are used to develop a more fully cultural approach to the judiciary and to sentencing practice. This entails a view of the judiciary as a complex institution whose practices reflect tension and compromise, and which recognises judges as bearers of penal culture through their sentencing practices. The aims of the research are twofold: to provide insight into the changing conditions of judging in Scotland and into the judicial role in criminal justice. Narrative research methods were used to interview retired judges and gain contextual accounts of judicial life and practice. This approach focuses on subjectivity and on individual responses to experiences and constraints. Reflecting the judicial role in punishment, an interpretive position based on the hermeneutics of faith and suspicion is used to evaluate and interpret these narrative accounts. This conceptual and methodological framework is used to explore aspects of judicial occupational culture including training and early experiences, the status of criminal work, judicial conduct, collegiality, the influence of criminological research on sentencing practice, and the relevance of the ‘master narrative’ - judicial independence - to sentencing. It is also used to explore the frameworks of meaning and vocabularies of motive which judges bring to penal practice. What emerges from these judicial narratives is firstly the entanglement of individual life histories and organisational imperatives. Secondly, a picture emerges of a judicial habitus that includes complex motivations, some openness to new approaches, and capacity for reflecting on the conditions which structure and constrain criminal justice practice. This suggests the reflexive judge may be an important vector of penal change and there are implications for judicial training, penal reform and for the dissemination of criminological and criminal justice research.