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4 November 2021

On 4 November 2021 the Sentencing Council is launching the strategy that will shape its work for the next five years. Sentencing Council strategic objectives 2021–2026 results from a public consultation held by the Council in 2020, its 10th anniversary year, to seek views on where its future priorities should lie.

Producing and revising guidelines will remain the Council’s core focus – a position broadly supported by respondents to the consultation. Consultees also recognised the important role played by analysis and research in ensuring sentencing guidelines are evidence based. The Council will be reviewing how it measures and interprets the impact of sentencing guidelines and, where possible, sourcing more and better data, as it places more focus on building up the evidence that underpins them.

The Council’s has a statutory duty to have regard to the relative effectiveness of different sentences in preventing reoffending. Consultees recognised the significant challenges of defining effectiveness in this context but urged the Council to do more to aid understanding. The Council will make the evidence on effectiveness it considers when developing guidelines more transparent and will consider undertaking qualitative research with offenders to explore which elements of a sentence may influence rehabilitation.

Consultees said they supported the Council’s work to improve public confidence in sentencing but they wanted to see more. The Council has set itself objectives to seek to work more in partnership with other organisations in order to reach a wider public, and to review how it identifies target audiences, particularly with a view to encouraging broader participation in its consultations. It will also continue to work in  partnership with the Judicial Office to launch a new version of the online sentencing tool, You be the Judge.

The new strategy also includes a specific objective for the Council to explore issues of equality and diversity relevant to its work. It is already considering this issue as it applies to the guidelines in development and now aims to extend this work.  This will include a project to examine the language, concepts, factors and structure of guidelines for any potential, unintended impact that could lead to disparities in sentencing. A working group of Council members has been set up to champion equality and diversity across all the Council’s work.

Lord Justice Holroyde, Chairman of the Sentencing Council, said:

“It was clear from the overall response to our consultation that the Council is seen as an important and integral part of the criminal justice system. There was broad support for our own view that producing and revising guidelines should remain our primary focus but some respondents felt we could add more value by placing more emphasis on other aspects of our work.

“The strategic objectives we have set ourselves for the next five years reflect the statutory duties of the Council, responses to the consultation and the resources we have at our disposal. The Council remains committed to fulfilling the duties set out for us in legislation: producing guidelines that provide the courts with a clear, fair and consistent approach to sentencing and promoting awareness and understanding of sentencing among victims, witnesses, offenders and the public.”

The Council received 36 responses to its anniversary consultation, including from legal professionals, academics, charities and non-profits, government departments, the Justice Select Committee, individual magistrates and members of the public. The Council’s consideration of consultees’ comments and the rationale for the strategic objectives are set out in What next for the Sentencing Council? Consultation response, which is published alongside the strategy.


Notes for editors

  1. The Sentencing Council was established in 2010 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.
  2. Sentencing guidelines must be followed, unless a judge or magistrate considers it is not in the interest of justice to do so. If a judge or magistrate believes that a guideline prevents the correct sentence from being given in an exceptional case, he or she can sentence outside of the guideline.
  3. Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation. The guidelines are intended to reflect current sentencing practice for these offences.

For more information, please contact Phil Hodgson on 020 7071 5788 or