Criminalizing Terrorism: The Impact of Context and Cohort Effects on the Sentencing Outcomes of Terrorist Offenders

Date created: 
Martin Bouchard
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Criminal justice model
Cohort effects
Extralegal factors

Despite the recent criminalization of terrorism specific offenses little is known about the legal processing of terrorist offenders, and even less is known about how the context that terrorist offenders are adjudicated in impact sentencing outcomes. Collectively, this dissertation explores how changing contextual environments related to legal responses, the timing of an offender’s adjudication and perceptions of threat impact the sentencing outcomes of terrorist offenders by utilizing a sample of terrorist offenders convicted both recently, and historically, in Canada (n = 153), and by further employing a sample of terrorist offenders recently adjudicated in the United Kingdom (n = 156). Across studies the context that offenders are sanctioned in impact sentencing outcomes, and cohort effects are uncovered. Terrorism specific offenses are readily utilized, and the criminalization of terrorism offenses appear to have provided law enforcement with legal measures that assist in the proactive prevention of terrorist incidents. However, general criminal provisions still have a significant role to play in the adjudication of terrorist offenders as offenders sanctioned of general criminal provisions only, or both general and terrorism specific offenses, are sentenced more severely than offenders convicted of terrorism specific offenses alone. The timing of an offender’s adjudication also impacts sentencing outcomes as offenders sanctioned in the latter stages of a terrorist campaign are generally sentenced more severely than offenders adjudicated at the onset for similar crimes, while variability in the sentence outcomes achieved throughout a terrorist campaign are characterized by cohort effects. Furthermore, being sanctioned in proximity to major terrorist incidents is found to affect sentencing outcomes as offenders sentenced following these events are punished less severely. Finally, offenders who are characterized by factors that are associated with increased perceptions of threat receive harsher punishments; however the impact of perceptions of threat on sentencing outcomes can be limited to specific time periods.

Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Document type: 
Copyright remains with the author. The author granted permission for the file to be printed and for the text to be copied and pasted.