Sentencing Council wins Guardian award

The Sentencing Council has won a Guardian Public Services award for work on its drug offences guideline. The award, for evidence-based policy making, was given last night for the research and analysis that went into the development of the guideline.

This included interviews with drug mules currently in prison, focus groups with the public and the development of an analytical tool to map current levels and types of sentence being given for drug offences. This was then followed by a 12-week public consultation period during which there were nearly 700 responses from criminal justice professionals and the public.
The consultation led to various modifications to the guideline before the definitive version was published in February this year, accompanied by an in-depth resource assessment indicating the cost implications for criminal justice agencies and the effect on overall sentence lengths.

Michelle Crotty, Head of the Office of the Council, said: “We’re delighted to have won this award. Our guideline was developed over 18 months of exhaustive research, road-testing and feedback, not only with criminal justice professionals, but with the public and even some offenders. It will promote a clear, fair and consistent approach to sentencing and we will continue to monitor the effect of the guideline through our ongoing research on Crown Court sentencing.”

The guideline brings sentencing guidance together for the first time to help ensure consistent and proportionate sentencing and provide effective guidance for sentencers and clear information for victims, witnesses and the public on how drug offenders are sentenced.

The Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley, presenting the award, said this of the work: “The combination of methods employed, from analytical tools to staff efforts, and the overall complexity of their approach, is deeply impressive. It is thorough, unique and highly innovative.”