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The Sentencing Council has published definitive guidelines on three overarching aspects of sentencing: allocation, offences taken into consideration and totality.
The guidelines, which will come into force in June, aim to ensure that the principles in each of these areas of sentencing practice are applied consistently in courts in England and Wales.
Allocation concerns the decision of a magistrates’ court as to whether it is appropriate that an offence which could be tried either way should remain in the magistrates’ court or be sent to the Crown Court.
The guideline aims to encourage a consistent approach to allocation decisions so that defendants are tried at the appropriate level. It brings a change in emphasis to the way in which magistrates approach assessing the strength of a case, moving away from taking the prosecution case at its highest and instead directing courts to take all aspects of the case into account.
The Sentencing Council has also produced a guideline for Offences Taken into Consideration (TICs) to set out the general principles, procedure and approach and so bring clarity and consistency to this long-standing convention.
TICs are those offences that the offender has not been prosecuted for but which he admits and asks the court to consider when being sentenced for an offence for which he has been prosecuted.
The guideline is not intended to bring about changes in sentencing practice other than where the application of the guideline might lead to greater consistency of approach; the types of sentence being passed and the prison population are not expected to be altered. Not all types of offence can be taken into consideration in a sentence and the guideline lists a number of exclusions.
The third guideline, on totality, has been produced to fulfil one of the Sentencing Council’s statutory duties under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
Totality is the principle that the total sentence for a number of offences sentenced at the same time should be just and proportionate, reflecting the overall seriousness of the criminality.
The guideline aims to bring greater clarity and transparency to existing sentencing practice for multiple offences and increase consistency of the application of the totality principle. It is not intended to bring about any changes in practice.
Average custodial sentence lengths, and the proportion of offenders receiving the various types of sentence, are not expected to change as a result of the introduction of the guideline.
Publication of the guidelines follows a three-month consultation period and the comments and feedback received were taken on board in the production of the definitive guidelines.
Deputy Chairman of the Sentencing Council, Lord Justice Hughes, said:
“On behalf of the Sentencing Council, I would like to thank everyone who responded to the consultation and those who attended our consultation events or participated in our research. We are grateful to all of the respondents for the contributions to the formulation of the definitive guidelines.
“These guidelines will assist courts in operating as effectively as possible by helping to ensure that each case is heard in the right court and by promoting a consistent and proportionate approach to totality and to taking offences into consideration.”
As with its other guidelines, the Council recognises the need to ensure a consistency of approach across all the courts that will be using these guidelines, while being careful not to include material that would rarely or never be used in one or other court. For this reason, the Crown Court version of the guidelines will not include the allocation guideline and the version of the totality guideline for inclusion in the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines will not include the specific application sections on extended sentences for public protection or indeterminate sentences, as magistrates cannot pass these sentences.
The definitive guidelines will be published in a Crown Court version and as an update to the MCSG on 6 March 2012 and sent out to all courts, coming into force on 11 June 2012. The Council is working with the Judicial College to develop training for the allocation guideline. No training is required in relation to the other two guidelines as these are statements of existing principles.
Notes to editors
1. The new guidelines will be available to download from the forthcoming guidelines page from 6 March
For more information, please contact Nick Mann, Sentencing Council press officer, on 020 3334 0631 / email
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