2. Prevalence and community impact statements
Taken from the Sentencing Guidelines Council’s definitive guideline Overarching Principles: Seriousness.
The seriousness of an individual case should be judged on its own dimensions of harm and culpability rather than as part of a collective social harm.
However, there may be exceptional local circumstances that arise which may lead a court to decide that prevalence should influence sentencing levels. The pivotal issue in such cases will be the harm being caused to the community. It is essential that sentencers both have supporting evidence from an external source (for example a community impact statement compiled by the police) to justify claims that a particular crime is prevalent in their area and are satisfied that there is a compelling need to treat the offence more seriously than elsewhere. A community impact statement is a document providing information to the court about the impact of offences on the community.
The key factor in determining whether sentencing levels should be enhanced in response to prevalence will be the level of harm being caused in the locality. Enhanced sentences should be exceptional and in response to exceptional circumstances. Sentencers must sentence within the sentencing guidelines once the prevalence has been addressed.