12 July 2023
Perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation offences: sentencing guidelines published
Two new guidelines for sentencing people convicted of interfering with the administration of justice in England and Wales were published today by the Sentencing Council following consultation.
For the first time, judges and magistrates will have guidelines to assist in sentencing perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation offences. The new guidelines will enable the courts to take a consistent approach to sentencing these offences.
There are currently no guidelines for the offence of perverting the course of justice and only limited guidance in the magistrates’ courts for witness intimidation. The new guidelines, which apply to adults only, will come into effect on 1 October 2023.
Perverting the course of justice offences cover a wide range of conduct, from giving false information to police officers at a traffic stop, tampering with evidence or giving false information during a police interview. Such behaviour could lead to offenders avoiding prosecution or innocent people being wrongly investigated or charged, potentially even being convicted and sent to prison.
Witness intimidation offences include pressuring witnesses to withdraw allegations or witness statements or withhold evidence in court, using actual violence or threats of violence. Such offences could lead to people withholding important evidence critical to the outcome of a case.
Sentencing Council member, Mrs Justice May, said:
“Perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation are serious offences that undermine the administration of justice by falsely accusing people or withholding crucial evidence thus potentially damaging police investigations and wasting courts’ time.
“Innocent people can suffer irreparable damage to their lives through loss of jobs, freedom or reputation while victims and witnesses can feel so frightened that they withdraw from proceedings, resulting in offenders avoiding trial and escaping punishment.”
Notes to editors
- The guidelines cover two offences: perverting the course of justice contrary to common law and witness intimidation under Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
- All new sentencing guidelines follow the Sentencing Council guideline model that takes a step-by-step approach to sentencing
- 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.
- Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation, which is determined by Parliament. The guidelines are intended to reflect current sentencing practice for these offences.
- 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.
- For more information, please contact Kathryn Montague, Sentencing Council Press Office, on 020 7071 5792 / 5788 / 07912301657 or email