Investigating the association between an offender’s sex and ethnicity and the sentence imposed at the Crown Court for drug offences

To support the revision of the Council’s drug offences guidelines, the Council has commissioned research that looks at the sentencing of three supply-related drug offences in the Crown Court between 2012 and 2015.

The research considered the association between an offender’s sex and ethnicity and the type and length of sentence they received. It shows that, when taking into account the main sentencing factors for the three offences, the sex and ethnicity of offenders were associated with different sentencing outcomes.

  • The odds of a male offender receiving an immediate custodial sentence for the three supply related drug offences were 2.4 times the size of the odds for a female offender, and male offenders received sentences on average 14 per cent longer than women.
  • For Asian offenders and those in the “Other” ethnic group (which included offenders who were not Asian, Black or White), the odds of receiving an immediate custodial sentence for the three drug offences were 1.5 times the size of the odds for White offenders. The odds of a Black offender receiving an immediate custodial sentence were 1.4 times the size of the odds for a White offender.
  • Asian offenders received custodial sentences that were on average 4 per cent longer than the sentences imposed for White offenders. No differences were found when comparing custodial sentence lengths between other ethnic groups.

The analysis does not set out to identify any reasons for the disparities in sentencing outcomes. The Council is, however, concerned that the sentencing guidelines should not contribute to or exacerbate disparities and is asking in its consultation whether any of the factors in the draft drug offences guidelines, or the language used, could impact disproportionately on different social groups.

The research report and the press notice are available on the website.