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'Ritual individualisation' : creative genius at sentencing, mitigation and conviction

Tata, Cyrus (2019) 'Ritual individualisation' : creative genius at sentencing, mitigation and conviction. Journal of Law and Society, 46 (1). pp. 112-140. ISSN 0263-323X

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Judges and lawyers must regard themselves as upholding cherished values, including: the presumption of innocence; free defendant choice and participation; and attention to the unique individual. Yet, everyday criminal work also demands compliance with a system of perfunctory, mass case-disposal. How is this potential contradiction addressed? Conceiving the criminal-penal process as a tripartite rite of passage, the article originates the concept of ‘Ritual Individualisation’ (RI). RI’s creative pre-sentencing case-work accomplishes four key transformations in how the person is re-presented to the court for sentencing. Firstly, the person’s unique voice and personal story is revealed, exhibiting her as a freely participating individual. Secondly in doing so, the pertinence of social disadvantage tends to be minimised. Thirdly, ambiguous admissions of guilt are translated as freely-given, full and sincere confessions. Fourthly, the person is manifested as a culpable offender ready for punishment. The article considers new research agendas opened up by the implications of Ritual Individualisation.