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Comparability of Data on Convictions and Sanctions: Are International Comparisons Possible?

NCJ Number
European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research Volume: 8 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2000 Pages: 13-26
Gordon C. Barclay
Date Published
March 2000
14 pages
This article considers whether it is possible to compare international data on convictions and sanctions.
The article examines data on convictions and on sanctions and measures in European countries, on the basis of European Sourcebook data. It emphasizes limitations on the current use of these data, although they have significant potential in helping to understand criminal justice policy. Differences are to be found in offense definitions, statistical rules and political changes. Moreover, it was sometimes difficult to collect data for the Sourcebook on the four categories of sanctions/measures: fines, non-custodial sentences, suspended custodial sentences and unsuspended custodial sentences. The article examines the data collected, the comparability and three specific offenses (completed homicide, rape and all thefts). There were wide differences in the level of convictions and in the use of sanctions by the courts, differences which reflect different levels of criminality, diversion away from the courts, and different recording practices. Tables, note, references