Sentencing Council launches consultation on draft guidelines on totality, offences taken into consideration and allocation

The Sentencing Council is seeking views on its proposed sentencing guidelines on three overarching aspects of sentencing: totality, offences taken into consideration and allocation, with a consultation launched today.

The draft guidelines aim to ensure that the principles in each of these areas of sentencing practice are applied consistently throughout courts in England and Wales.

Totality is the principle that the total sentence for a number of offences considered together should be just and proportionate, reflecting the overall seriousness of the criminality when all the offences are considered together.

The Sentencing Council has a statutory duty under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to produce this guideline, which aims to bring greater clarity and transparency to existing sentencing for multiple offences and increase consistency of the application of totality.

Average custodial sentence lengths, and the proportion of offenders receiving the various types of sentence, will not change as a result of the introduction of the guideline. However, the guideline gives emphasis to the message that the court is considering all the offending before it and can properly pass a suitably severe sentence to take into account the commission of multiple offences.

The Sentencing Council is also consulting on its draft guideline for Offences Taken into Consideration (TICs).

TICs are those offences that an offender has not been prosecuted for but which he admits and asks the court to consider when being sentenced for another offence for which he has been prosecuted.

While there is well-established practice in relation to TICs, there is no single source of guidance about the approach the courts should take. The Council therefore felt it important to set out the general principles, procedure and approach.  The draft guideline is again intended to bring clarity and consistency of approach throughout courts in England and Wales to this long-standing convention.

Like the totality draft guideline, it is not intended to bring about changes in sentencing practice other than where the application of the guideline might lead to greater consistency of approach, and the types of sentence being passed and the prison population are not expected to be altered. Not all types of offence can be taken into consideration in a sentence and the draft guideline lists a number of exclusions.

The third draft guideline announced today relates to allocation, which concerns the decision of a magistrates’ court whether it is appropriate that an offence which could be tried summarily should remain in the magistrates’ or should be sent to the Crown Court. This draft guideline aims to encourage a consistent approach to decisions as to allocation to ensure that each offender is tried and, in the event of conviction, sentenced at the appropriate level.

There are no guidelines on allocation at present, and sentencers currently refer to criminal practice directions. The guideline proposed is intended for use in the magistrates’ court, where the vast majority of allocation decisions are made.

Chairman of the Sentencing Council, Lord Justice Leveson, said: “We would like criminal justice professionals and others with an interest in these aspects of sentencing to share their views about our proposals. Through these guidelines, the Council wants to assist courts to operate as effectively as possible by seeking to ensure that the right case is heard in the right court and, at the same time to promote a consistent and proportionate approach to issues of totality and taking offences into consideration.”