Statutory Sentencing Reform in Israel: Exploring the Sentencing Law of 2012

Julian V. Roberts, Oren Gazal-Ayal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2012 the Knesset approved a new sentencing law. Israel thus became the latest jurisdiction to introduce statutory directions for courts to follow in sentencing. The approach of the United States to structuring judicial discretion often entails the use of a sentencing grid with presumptive sentencing ranges. In contrast, the Sentencing Act of Israel reflects a less prescriptive method: it provides guidance by words rather than numbers. Retributivism is clearly identified as the penal philosophy underpinning the new law, which takes a novel approach to promoting more proportionate sentencing. Courts are directed to construct an individualised proportionate sentencing range appropriate to the case in hand. Once this is established, the court then follows additional directions regarding factors and principles related to sentencing. Although other jurisdictions have placed the purposes and principles of sentencing on a statutory footing, this is the first such legislative declaration in Israel. The statute also contains a methodology to implement a proportional approach to sentencing as well as detailed guidance on sentencing factors. This article describes and explores the new Sentencing Act, making limited comparisons to sentencing reforms in other jurisdictions – principally England and Wales, New Zealand and the United States. In concluding, we speculate on the likely consequences of the law: will it achieve the goals of promoting more consistent and principled sentencing?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-479
Number of pages25
JournalIsrael Law Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


  • judicial decision-making
  • sentencing
  • sentencing reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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