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Improvements to the online magistrates’ court sentencing guidelines

The Sentencing Council has made a series of improvements to the online magistrates’ court sentencing guidelines to make it easier for users to find relevant guidelines and supplementary information.

From 1 July, the search function will perform a ‘smart search’, meaning that results are prioritised according to words and phrases related to, and partial matches of, the search term used, and are presented in order of relevance rather than alphabetically.

To make finding guidelines quicker and help you establish whether a guideline for a particular offence does or does not exist, the Council has also added an offence category drop-down menu to the magistrates’ court guideline search page. This function pulls together sentencing guidelines into recognised offence groups.

Explanatory materials have been renamed ‘Supplementary information’ and can be accessed via a new tab on the search page. Users can more easily navigate to supplementary information and click between the different categories. For example, you can see and expand all ancillary orders on one page.

The Council has made these improvements following its User Testing project that looked at how judges, magistrates and legal advisers access and use sentencing guidelines. Sentencers consistently mentioned to the researchers that they experienced difficulty using the search functionality and navigating to and around other sources of information on the website, including the explanatory materials.

These latest improvements have been through various stages of development, including being tested by a group of volunteer magistrates. The Council is continuing to make improvements to the website and would be pleased to hear from you at if you experience any problems with the new search function or have any comments or suggestions.


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