Remorse in Context(s): A Qualitative Exploration of the Negotiation of Remorse and Its Consequences

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19 Citations (Scopus)


The presence or absence of ‘signs of remorse’ is often understood to have consequences for judges’ sentencing decisions. However, these findings raise the questions, firstly, how ‘remorse’ is communicated and demonstrated by defendants within court settings, and secondly, whether remorse plays a uniform role across and between various offense and offender types. Drawing on ethnographic data gathered in a Dutch criminal court, we contextualize remorse to answer these questions. First, we embed the performance of remorse in the court context, where defendants have to negotiate potentially competing legal and moral narrative demands. Second, we draw attention to the context of three different typified whole-case narratives, within which defendants' performances of remorse assume differential levels of importance. In doing so we seek to complicate binary portrayals of the role and consequences of remorse, arguing for a more holistic and narrative understanding of sentencing practices. Key words: Remorse, courtroom interaction, narrative, sentencing, ethnography, judicial decision-making
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-377
Number of pages19
JournalSocial & Legal Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Research programs

  • SAI 2008-06 BACT


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