Synopsis The research field of sentencing, in particular the sentencing of imprisonment in the Portuguese criminal justice system, has been of small interest to the great majority of scholars and judges alike. Although it is an extremely important point of contact between the criminal justice system and the community as a whole – it may even be said that on sentencing lies a successful result of the process of stabilizing the citizens’ expectations of a state response to the phenomenon of crime – there is still much to know about the way judges reach a definitive criminal penalty. The wording chosen by the Portuguese legislator for the articles no. 40 and 71 of the Portuguese Penal Code supports divergent interpretations given by scholars and case law. This in turn creates incoherent case law. Aware of the status quo of the Portuguese criminal justice system, we researched legal instruments that provide greater decision support for the sentencing judge, helping him to sort out, within the multiple possibilities offered by penalty range provided by the Portuguese Penal Code, which is the most appropriate and fair sentence for a certain case. Among several instruments, we turn our focus on sentencing guidelines, as they might provide greater consistency and rationality to the sentencing decision. After a careful appraisal of its characteristics in the context of the English legal system, a paradigmatic example of Common Law, we suggest that they could play an important and relevant part in a new Portuguese integral, rational and consistent sentencing model.
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