Remorse in the French Criminal Justice System A Subterranean Influence - Nantes Université Access content directly
Book Sections Year : 2023

Remorse in the French Criminal Justice System A Subterranean Influence

Virginie Gautron


A comparison of the theory of French criminal law and its practical implementation reveals a strange paradox. Aiming to maintain the positivist tradition of scientific, rational laws detached from morality and the religious roots of penal philosophy, legislators are writing texts devoid of the slightest reference to how offenders feel about what they have done and the extent to which they feel remorse. Judges, however, regularly refer to those feelings at every stage of the criminal process. Providing objective evidence of the influence of those feelings on judicial decision making is nonetheless a hazardous undertaking, not only because French judges are not required to fully explain their reasoning, but also because those feelings are diluted in a broad spectrum of overlapping criteria. Based on the results of empirical research using both qualitative and quantitative methods, this contribution aims to highlight and explain the subterranean role remorse and broader attitudes around responsibility for the offence play in criminal judgments. This role is strengthened as multiple professionals charged with providing information to judges, from arrest to the carrying out of the sentence, focus on suspects' and offenders' feelings about the offence. Police officers, social background investigators, psychiatric experts and probation officers use similar methods to typify and interpret those feelings, and most draw on them to categorize the situations they assess, then use them to support their arguments in the documents they submit to judges. Influenced by all these medical, criminological and moral inferences, judges then tend to penalize emotional deviance.
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hal-04099130 , version 1 (16-05-2023)
hal-04099130 , version 2 (24-05-2023)


Attribution - NonCommercial - ShareAlike


  • HAL Id : hal-04099130 , version 2


Virginie Gautron. Remorse in the French Criminal Justice System A Subterranean Influence. Stewart Field, Cyrus Tata (eds). Criminal Justice & The Ideal Defendant in the Making of Remorse and Responsibility, Hart Publishing/Bloomsbury Publishing, pp.29-47, 2023, Oñati International Series in Law and Society, 9781509939916. ⟨hal-04099130v2⟩
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