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New guidelines for sentencing common assault and attempted murder published

Revised sentencing guidelines for assault offences including attempted murder and common assault, and new guidance for assaults on emergency workers have been published by the Sentencing Council, following wide consultation. The guidelines will come into effect on 1 July 2021.

For the first time, judges and magistrates in England and Wales will have specific guidance for sentencing offences of assault on emergency workers, which reflects legislation that increased the maximum sentence for common assault when the victim is an emergency worker. 

Guidelines for attempted murder – the most serious form of non-fatal assault – have also been revised with a new sentence range of up to 40 years to ensure sentences for the most serious cases reflect the gravity of the offence.

Other changes include:

  • A new high-culpability factor of “intention to cause fear of serious harm, including disease transmission” in the common assault guideline
  • A new aggravating factor of “deliberate spitting or coughing” in the common assault and assault causing Actual Bodily Harm (ABH) offences guidelines
  • A new high-culpability factor of strangulation to include asphyxiation and suffocation in all guidelines except attempted murder
  • A revised high-culpability factor of “victim obviously vulnerable due to age, personal characteristics or circumstances” across all guidelines

In addition, other changes have been made across the revised sentencing guidelines including:

  • The introduction of a greater number of offence categories and sentence starting points. These will ensure appropriate assessments of culpability and harm, and proportionate sentences which reflect the seriousness of the offences
  • A revised aggravating factor of “offence committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public, or against person coming to the assistance of emergency worker” which provides for increased sentences for assaults on an individual providing a service to the public

Sentencing Council member Her Honour Judge Rosa Dean said:

“Assault is a traumatic offence and can cause great distress to the victim both physically and psychologically, and it is important that sentences reflect the harm and upset that can be caused to many people – both ordinary members of the public and professionals doing their work.

“These guidelines provide updated guidance for sentencing a range of assault offences from common assault to attempted murder and include guidance for sentencing offences involving assaults on emergency workers. The guidelines will ensure appropriate and proportionate sentences are imposed for these offences that fully recognise the level of harm caused to the victim.”

The new guidelines, which apply to adult offenders, will bring a consistent approach to sentencing assault offences and assist sentencers in making a balanced assessment of the seriousness of those offences and imposing appropriate and proportionate sentences. The revision follows evaluation of the existing guideline.

Details of the revisions made to the guidelines and the Council’s reasons for making them, are set out in the consultation response document 

Notes to editors

  1. The revision of the assault offences guidelines ensures that all sentences are proportionate to the offence and in relation to other offences.
  2. The complete list of the revised guidelines is shown below:
  1. The existing guideline was the first guideline developed by the Sentencing Council.
  2. Common assault offences are the highest volume offences covered by the guideline.
  3. All new sentencing guidelines follow more recent Council guideline models and include a stepped approach to sentencing
  4. Sentencing guidelines must be followed, unless the court is satisfied that it would be contrary to the interest of justice to do so in all the circumstances of a particular case.
  5. Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation. The guidelines are intended to reflect current sentencing practice for these offences.
  6. The Sentencing Council was established by Parliament to be an independent body, but accountable to Parliament for its work which is scrutinised by the Justice Select Committee. Justice Ministers are accountable to Parliament for the Sentencing Council’s effectiveness and efficiency, for its use of public funds and for protecting its independence. Judicial Council members are appointed by the Lord Chief Justice with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor. Non-judicial council members are appointed by the Lord Chancellor with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice.

For more information, please contact Kathryn Montague, Sentencing Council Press Office, on 020 7071 5792 / 5788 / 07912301657

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