2. Prevalence and community impact statements

Guideline users should be aware that the Equal Treatment Bench Book covers important aspects of fair treatment and disparity of outcomes for different groups in the criminal justice system. It provides guidance which sentencers are encouraged to take into account wherever applicable, to ensure that there is fairness for all involved in court proceedings.

Taken from the General guideline

Established evidence of community/wider impact

  • This factor should increase the sentence only where there is clear evidence of wider harm not already taken into account elsewhere. A community impact statement will assist the court in assessing the level of impact.
  • For issues of prevalence see the separate guidance below:


  • Sentencing levels in offence specific guidelines take account of collective social harm. Accordingly offenders should normally be sentenced by straightforward application of the guidelines without aggravation for the fact that their activity contributed to a harmful social effect upon a neighbourhood or community.
  • It is not open to a sentencer to increase a sentence for prevalence in ordinary circumstances or in response to a personal view that there is ‘too much of this sort of thing going on in this area’.
  • First, there must be evidence provided to the court by a responsible body or by a senior police officer.
  • Secondly, that evidence must be before the court in the specific case being considered with the relevant statements or reports having been made available to the Crown and defence in good time so that meaningful representations about that material can be made.
  • Even if such material is provided, a sentencer will only be entitled to treat prevalence as an aggravating factor if satisfied
    • that the level of harm caused in a particular locality is significantly higher than that caused elsewhere (and thus already inherent in the guideline levels);
    • that the circumstances can properly be described as exceptional; and
    • that it is just and proportionate to increase the sentence for such a factor in the particular case being sentenced.