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16 September 2011

Guidance to judges and magistrates on appropriate sentencing levels come from definitive guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council and from guideline judgments from the Court of Appeal.

The Council has discussed the impact of the summer’s riots on guidelines at its September meeting today and is aware that the Court of Appeal will be considering cases relating to the August disturbances very shortly. It has decided that it is not necessary to issue further guidelines at this time. Neither will it comment on specific appeals.

Guidelines are deliberately designed to be flexible, setting out sentencing ranges for each offence, which allows for the reflection of the wide range of circumstances in which they are committed. They set out a step by step approach which judges must follow to ensure a consistent approach to sentencing. The guideline approach allows sentencers to sentence at the top of these ranges – above the levels expected for the vast majority of cases – or depart from them altogether if it is in the interests of justice to do so, as long as reasons are given.

Since April, the Council has been consulting on proposed definitive guidelines for offences of burglary, including non-domestic burglary. In light of this consultation these guidelines were also discussed and it was agreed to include, within factors indicating greater harm in relation to non-domestic burglary, the context of general public disorder. This is intended to be seen in relation to all public disorder and is not specifically designed to address recent events.

The Sentencing Council issues definitive sentencing guidelines following extensive discussion and consultation with justice professionals and the public. Sentencing guidelines play an essential role in ensuring a consistent approach to sentencing in courts across England and Wales.