News type:
Press releases

News topic:
Child cruelty

Published on:

4 August 2022

Plans to update sentencing guidelines for offenders convicted of child cruelty offences including causing or allowing death or serious injury, or neglect in England and Wales were published by the Sentencing Council for consultation today following changes to legislation.

The proposals introduce a new ‘very high culpability’ level for the most serious cases to reflect new maximum sentences introduced by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 for two offences:

The proposed revised guideline for ‘causing or allowing a child to die’ would have a new sentencing range of up to 18 years in prison. The new sentencing ranges for ‘causing or allowing a child to suffer serious physical harm’ and for ‘cruelty to a child’ would be up to 12 years’ custody.

The proposed sentence levels for the new ‘very high culpability’ levels take into account the increased statutory maximum sentences and are higher than the sentence ranges in the current guideline. 

The culpability factors of other levels (high, medium and lower), the various harm factors and the sentence levels for all cases not falling into the new very high culpability level would remain the same.

The Council is seeking views on the proposed revisions from judges, magistrates and others with an interest in this area. The consultation will run from 4 August 2022 to 27 October 2022. The current guidelines came into force in 2019.

Notes to editors

  1. The Sentencing Council issued guidelines for these offences in 2018 which came into force on 1 January 2019.
  2. Causing or allowing a child to die or suffer serious physical harm is an offence under section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004; Cruelty to a child is an offence under section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.
  3. The statutory maximum penalty for causing or allowing a child to die was raised from 14 years to life imprisonment under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act 2022. The PCSC Act also raised the statutory maximum penalties for causing or allowing a child to suffer serious physical harm and cruelty to a child from 10 years to 14 years’ imprisonment.
  4. Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation.
  5. 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.
  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.
  7. For more information, please contact Kathryn Montague, Sentencing Council Press Office, on 020 7071 5792 / 5788 / 07912301657 or email