Since Beccaria(1986) put forward deterrence as the legitimate purpose of criminal punishment, Bentham(1780)had firstly divided the purpose into general deterrence and special deterrence. General deterrence is to deter potential offenders who have not been punished in legal. Compared with special deterrence that prevents recidivism by direct physical and emotional control to offenders (Braga and Weisburd, 2012), general deterrence can only indirectly impact the rational general public in psychology by legal sanctions. In this sense, the extent to which general public perceives and reacts to the legal sanctions thus change their behavior determines the efficacy of general deterrence. In support of this statement, the paper agrees Geerken and Gove (1975) that general deterrence is a mechanism of information transmission. However, there is an obstacle in information transmission because not all the general public can perceive the information due to constrains in various aspects, in addition to the information of mass media is merely beneficial for potential offenders to change their behaviors. Therefore, legal sanction sometimes is not in positive correlation with frequency and rate of crime and recidivism, which has been evidenced by several researches. Based on this theory, the first part will assess the efficacy of general deterrence combined with 2011 England riots. It reveals that the certainty of punishment rather than severity accounts more for deterring potential offenders (Pratt et al., 2006). Therefore, several findings display that legal sanction like imprison cannot realize general deterrence. Then the second part focuses on explain the reason in the perspective of individual perception towards informative punishment. In spite of the negative efficiency of general deterrence, it argues in the last part that general deterrence can still be a legitimate purpose of punishment to certain extent.
Body部分讲述内容，2011年8月6日，由于伦敦北部托特纳姆大都会警察局的一名黑人马克杜根枪杀，伦敦开始发生一系列社会动荡。 之后，家人和社区大约200人抗议警察暴行。 2011年8月9日，骚乱蔓延到英格兰的主要城市，包括伯明翰，利物浦，利兹和布里斯托尔。 这是自1995年布里克斯顿骚乱以来最严重的骚乱，也是1940年9月7日伦敦爆炸事件发生以来，纳粹德国在WII期间实施的暴乱最多的骚乱。 因此，骚乱引起了包括总理在内的整个英格兰的关注。
On August 6, 2011, a series of social unrest began in London due to a black Mark Duggan shot dead by the Metropolitan Police officer in Tottenham, north London. Afterwards, the family and community about 200 people protested against the police atrocity. On August 9, 2011, the riots spread to major cities in England, including Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds and Bristol. It was the most severe riots since Brixton riots in 1995, and also the riots involving the largest population since London bombing on September 7, 1940 implemented by Nazi Germany during WII. Therefore, the riots attracted attention of the whole England including the Prime Minister Cameron. By 20 August, BBC reported that more than 2,000 people related to the riots had been arrested. Among them, offenders of violent disorder, robbery, burglary and criminal damage were imposed more than five years detention, which could be described as “greatest possible seriousness” (Colley, 2012). Moreover, the precipitate detention directly led to the prison was over-crowed. Although the court insisted the necessity and obligation to do so in order to protect and deter the general public, the legal sanctions imposed to the offenders were criticized in various aspects. On the one hand, the government represented by Prime Minister Cameron highlighted that the riots was not a social issue but a crime issue. Under the context, it seemed to be fair to impose detention to offenders who committed violent disorder, robbery, burglary and criminal damage. However, the riots was associated closely with the complex social and economic causes such as racial tensions, unemployment, juvenile violent, etc., and there were a number of juvenile offences. In that case, the indiscriminate and sever punishment violated the human rights.
It focuses on demonstrate the negative effect of imprisonment and excessively severe punishment to deter potential offenders on the basis of several researches, however, legal sanction plays appreciable role in general deterrence which has been proved by numerous researches though the paper does not involve it. According to the traditional criminal theory, the realization of deterrence effect depends on the certainty, severity and swiftness of punishment, and the certainty of punishment is the main precondition. Nevertheless, the paper states in the third part that information transmission and individual perception capacity are prior to certainty of punishment as precondition to realize general deterrence. Therefore, it takes long to demonstrate the obstacle in information transmission and perception will hinder the deterrence effect. In the last part, it argues the legitimacy of general deterrence as purpose of punishment in perspective of atonement theory. Actually, deterrence effect is essentially the extension and supplement of retribution of offenders (Levanon, (2015). Finally, retribution and deterrence theory highlight the distress of criminal punishment, however, common sense of principle and rules of criminal law is the true reason why the majority people abide by the law and accept the punishment. So the tolerance of criminal law should be further studies in prevention of crimes.
BBC. “London riots arrests reach 2,000, Met Police says” retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-14668770