Aggravating and mitigating factors

Taken from Sentencing Guidelines Council Guideline Overarching Principles: Seriousness.

The lists below bring together the most important aggravating and mitigating features with potential application to more than one offence or class of offences. They include some factors which are integral features of certain offences; in such cases, the presence of the aggravating factor is already reflected in the penalty for the offence and cannot be used as justification for increasing the sentence further. The lists are not intended to be comprehensive and the factors are not listed in any particular order of priority. If two or more of the factors listed describe the same feature care needs to be taken to avoid “double counting”.

Aggravating factors

Factors indicating higher culpability:
  • offence committed whilst on bail for other offences;
  • failure to respond to previous sentences;
  • offence was racially or religiously aggravated;
  • offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility to the victim based on his or her sexual orientation (or presumed sexual orientation);
  • offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility based on the victim’s disability (or presumed disability);
  • previous conviction(s), particularly where a pattern of repeat offending is disclosed;
  • planning of an offence;
  • an intention to commit more serious harm than actually resulted from the offence;
  • offenders operating in groups or gangs;
  • ‘professional’ offending;
  • commission of the offence for financial gain (where this is not inherent in the offence itself);
  • high level of profit from the offence;
  • an attempt to conceal or dispose of evidence;
  • failure to respond to warnings or concerns expressed by others about the offender’s behaviour;
  • offence committed whilst on licence;
  • offence motivated by hostility towards a minority group, or a member or members of it;
  • deliberate targeting of vulnerable victim(s);
  • commission of an offence while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
  • use of a weapon to frighten or injure victim;
  • deliberate and gratuitous violence or damage to property, over and above what is needed to carry out the offence;
  • abuse of power;
  • abuse of a position of trust.
Factors indicating a more than usually serious degree of harm:
  • multiple victims;
  • an especially serious physical or psychological effect on the victim, even if unintended;
  • a sustained assault or repeated assaults on the same victim;
  • victim is particularly vulnerable;
  • location of the offence (for example, in an isolated place);
  • offence is committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public;
  • presence of others for example, relatives, especially children or partner of the victim;
  • additional degradation of the victim (for example, taking photographs of a victim as part of a sexual offence);
  • in property offences, high value (including sentimental value) of property to the victim, or substantial consequential loss (for example, where the theft of equipment causes serious disruption to a victim’s life or business).

Mitigating factors

Factors indicating lower culpability:
  • a greater degree of provocation than normally expected;
  • mental illness or disability;
  • youth or age, where it affects the responsibility of the individual defendant;
  • the fact that the offender played only a minor role in the offence.

Offender mitigation

  • genuine remorse;
  • admissions to police in interview;
  • ready co-operation with authorities.