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19 May 2016

The Sentencing Council has published proposals for revisions to some of the magistrates’ court sentencing guidelines. The revisions will cover sentencing for “summary only” offences, that is, those that can only be dealt with in the magistrates’ courts, and they are the first stage of a general revision of all magistrates’ guidelines.

The aim is to introduce a consistent approach to sentencing in all magistrates’ courts in England and Wales.

The guidelines currently being revised cover 27 varied offences, including communications network offences, speeding and railway fare evasion. For some offences, such as speeding, the law states that a fine is the only sentence that can be given, and for offences where a prison sentence can be given, legislation sets a maximum of six months.

They are being revised to ensure all magistrates’ guidelines use the same approach.

Currently the MCSG comprises a mix of guidelines produced by the Council’s predecessor body in 2008 and those which have been developed by the Council since. The Council has developed a more sophisticated methodology for assessing the seriousness of offences in its guidelines as compared with those previously produced and therefore wants to ensure that this approach is applied across the board.

The revision is not intended to result in significant changes to current sentencing levels.

Sentencing Council member and magistrate Jill Gramann said:

“Our revision of the guidelines will ensure magistrates in England and Wales have clear guidance using a consistent approach to help them sentence fairly and proportionately.

“We are keen to hear people’s views of our proposed changes, whether they are magistrates, others working in the criminal justice system or anyone else with an interest in this area of sentencing.”

Through the consultation, the Council is seeking views on:

  • the approach taken to structuring the draft guidelines;
  • the principal factors that make any of the offences included within the draft guidelines more or less serious;
  • the additional factors that should influence the sentence;
  • the sentences that should be passed for these offences; and
  • anything else that should be considered.

The public consultation runs for 12 weeks from 19 May to 11 August. During the consultation period, the Council will host a number of consultation meetings to seek views from interested groups as well as with sentencers. Following the consultation, the revised guidelines will be published and used by magistrates’ courts in England and Wales.