News type:
Press releases

News topic:
Immigration offences

Published on:

20 March 2024

A package of six new sentencing guidelines for offenders convicted of immigration offences in England and Wales were published for consultation by the independent Sentencing Council today following changes in legislation.

Under the proposals, judges and magistrates will – for the first time – have dedicated sentencing guidelines for immigration offences including assisting illegal entry or arrival, using deception to enter or remain in the UK, knowingly entering the UK illegally, breaching a deportation order or possessing false identity documents.

The draft guidelines seek to achieve consistency in sentencing and they reflect legislative changes to the Immigration Act 1971 brought in by the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. The Nationality and Borders Act introduced new maximum sentences for some immigration offences and created a number of new offences.

The consultation proposes sentences of up to 16 years in custody for the most serious offenders, such as those who facilitate the illegal entry of large numbers of people for commercial purposes in a manner that puts those individuals or rescuers at a high risk of serious injury or death.

Other proposed guidelines include sentences of up to eight years for possessing false identity documents with an improper intention, and three years in custody for knowingly entering the country illegally.

Sentencing Council member, District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts) Stephen Leake, said:

“The Sentencing Council is issuing draft sentencing guidelines to cover a range of immigration offences.  The most serious of these offences involve offenders who facilitate or assist those seeking to enter this country illegally, often in circumstances that cause a real risk of death or serious injury to others.  In some cases, illegal immigration is facilitated by organised crime groups who exploit vulnerable people in order to make a profit.

“It is important that courts have appropriate sentencing guidelines that reflect the current laws when dealing with these cases.  Public consultation is an important part of the development of new sentence guidelines, and we welcome the views of anyone with an interest in these draft guidelines.”

Currently there are no sentencing guidelines for immigration offences and courts sentencing such cases follow case law that has developed over time and the Council’s General guideline, which provides guidance to judges and magistrates when sentencing offences for which there is no relevant offence-specific guideline.

The new guidelines will ensure that the courts will be able to take a consistent approach when sentencing these offences, which cover a wide range of offences.

The Council is seeking views on the draft guidelines – which apply to adult offenders only – from judges, magistrates and others with an interest in this area. The consultation will run from 20 March 2024 to 12 June 2024.

Notes to Editors

  1. The full list of guidelines being proposed is shown below:
  1. All new sentencing guidelines follow more recent Council guideline models and include a stepped approach to sentencing.
  2. 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.
  3. Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation. The Facilitation guideline aims to ensure that higher sentences are imposed for the most serious offending behaviour in reflection of the fact that Parliament has raised the statutory maximum sentence from 14 years’ imprisonment to life. The other guidelines seek to maintain current sentencing practice.
  4. 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 Lady Chief Justice with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor. Non-judicial council members are appointed by the Lord Chancellor with the agreement of the Lady Chief Justice.
  5. For more information, please contact Kathryn Montague, Sentencing Council Press Office, on 020 7071 5792 / 5788 or email