Triable either way
Maximum: 2 years’ custody
Note: this guideline does not take account of the increase in magistrates’ courts’ sentencing powers for either way offences committed on or after 2 May 2022
- Must endorse and disqualify for at least 12 months. Must order extended re-test
- Must disqualify for at least 2 years if offender has had two or more disqualifications for periods of 56 days or more in preceding 3 years – refer to disqualification guidance and consult your legal adviser for further guidance
If there is a delay in sentencing after conviction, consider interim disqualification
Guideline users should be aware that the Equal Treatment Bench Book covers important aspects of fair treatment and disparity of outcomes for different groups in the criminal justice system. It provides guidance which sentencers are encouraged to take into account wherever applicable, to ensure that there is fairness for all involved in court proceedings.
Offence seriousness (culpability and harm)
A. Identify the appropriate starting point
Starting points based on first time offender pleading not guilty
|Examples of nature of activity||Starting point||Range|
|Single incident where little or no damage or risk of personal injury||Medium level community order||Low level community order to high level community order Disqualify 12 – 15 months|
|Incident(s) involving excessive speed or showing off, especially on busy roads or in built-up area;
Single incident where little or no damage or risk of personal injury but offender was disqualified driver
|12 weeks custody||High level community order to 26 weeks custody Disqualify 15 – 24 months|
|Prolonged bad driving involving deliberate disregard for safety of others;
Incident(s) involving excessive speed or showing off, especially on busy roads or in built-up area, by disqualified driver;
Driving as described in box above while being pursued by police
|Crown Court||Crown Court|
For further information see Imposition of community and custodial sentences.
- The seriousness of the offence should be the initial factor in determining which requirements to include in a community order. Offence specific guidelines refer to three sentencing levels within the community order band based on offence seriousness (low, medium and high). The culpability and harm present in the offence(s) should be considered to identify which of the three sentencing levels within the community order band is appropriate. See below for non-exhaustive examples of requirements that might be appropriate in each.
- At least one requirement MUST be imposed for the purpose of punishment and/or a fine imposed in addition to the community order unless there are exceptional circumstances which relate to the offence or the offender that would make it unjust in all the circumstances to do so.
- A suspended sentence MUST NOT be imposed as a more severe form of community order. A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence.
- Community orders can fulfil all of the purposes of sentencing. In particular, they can have the effect of restricting the offender’s liberty while providing punishment in the community, rehabilitation for the offender, and/or ensuring that the offender engages in reparative activities.
- A community order must not be imposed unless the offence is ‘serious enough to warrant such a sentence’. Where an offender is being sentenced for a non-imprisonable offence, there is no power to make a community order.
- Sentencers must consider all available disposals at the time of sentence; even where the threshold for a community sentence has been passed, a fine or discharge may be an appropriate penalty. In particular, a Band D fine may be an appropriate alternative to a community order.
- The court must ensure that the restriction on the offender’s liberty is commensurate with the seriousness of the offence and that the requirements imposed are the most suitable for the offender.
- Sentences should not necessarily escalate from one community order range to the next on each sentencing occasion. The decision as to the appropriate range of community order should be based upon the seriousness of the new offence(s) (which will take into account any previous convictions).
- In many cases, a pre-sentence report will be pivotal in helping the court decide whether to impose a community order and, if so, whether particular requirements or combinations of requirements are suitable for an individual offender. Whenever the court reaches the provisional view that a community order may be appropriate, it should request a pre-sentence report (whether written or verbal) unless the court is of the opinion that a report is unnecessary in all the circumstances of the case.
- It may be helpful to indicate to the Probation Service the court’s preliminary opinion as to which of the three sentencing ranges is relevant and the purpose(s) of sentencing that the package of requirements is expected to fulfil. Ideally a pre-sentence report should be completed on the same day to avoid adjourning the case. If an adjournment cannot be avoided, the information should be provided to the Probation Service in written form and a copy retained on the court file for the benefit of the sentencing court. However, the court must make clear to the offender that all sentencing options remain open including, in appropriate cases, committal for sentence to the Crown Court.
|Offences only just cross community order threshold, where the seriousness of the offence or the nature of the offender’s record means that a discharge or fine is inappropriate
In general, only one requirement will be appropriate and the length may be curtailed if additional requirements are necessary
|Offences that obviously fall within the community order band||Offences only just fall below the custody threshold or the custody threshold is crossed but a community order is more appropriate in the circumstances
More intensive sentences which combine two or more requirements may be appropriate
|Suitable requirements might include:
||Suitable requirements might include:
||Suitable requirements might include:
* If order does not contain a punitive requirement, suggested fine levels are indicated below:
BAND A FINE
BAND B FINE
BAND C FINE
**Note: Changes to the curfew requirements brought in by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 are set out in the Requirements section in the Overarching Guideline: Imposition of community and custodial sentences, but are not reflected in the ranges above.
Sentencing flowcharts are available at Imposition of Community and Custodial Sentences definitive guideline.
The approach to the imposition of a custodial sentence should be as follows:
1) Has the custody threshold been passed?
- A custodial sentence must not be imposed unless the offence or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it was so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence.
- There is no general definition of where the custody threshold lies. The circumstances of the individual offence and the factors assessed by offence-specific guidelines will determine whether an offence is so serious that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified. Where no offence specific guideline is available to determine seriousness, the harm caused by the offence, the culpability of the offender and any previous convictions will be relevant to the assessment.
- The clear intention of the threshold test is to reserve prison as a punishment for the most serious offences.
2) Is it unavoidable that a sentence of imprisonment be imposed?
- Passing the custody threshold does not mean that a custodial sentence should be deemed inevitable. Custody should not be imposed where a community order could provide sufficient restriction on an offender’s liberty (by way of punishment) while addressing the rehabilitation of the offender to prevent future crime.
- For offenders on the cusp of custody, imprisonment should not be imposed where there would be an impact on dependants which would make a custodial sentence disproportionate to achieving the aims of sentencing.
3) What is the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offence?
- In considering this the court must NOT consider any licence or post sentence supervision requirements which may subsequently be imposed upon the offender’s release.
4) Can the sentence be suspended?
- A suspended sentence MUST NOT be imposed as a more severe form of community order. A suspended sentence is a custodial sentence. Sentencers should be clear that they would impose an immediate custodial sentence if the power to suspend were not available. If not, a non-custodial sentence should be imposed.
The following factors should be weighed in considering whether it is possible to suspend the sentence:
Factors indicating that it would not be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence
Factors indicating that it may be appropriate to suspend a custodial sentence
Offender presents a risk/danger to the public
Realistic prospect of rehabilitation
Appropriate punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody
Strong personal mitigation
History of poor compliance with court orders
Immediate custody will result in significant harmful impact upon others
The imposition of a custodial sentence is both punishment and a deterrent. To ensure that the overall terms of the suspended sentence are commensurate with offence seriousness, care must be taken to ensure requirements imposed are not excessive. A court wishing to impose onerous or intensive requirements should reconsider whether a community sentence might be more appropriate.
Whenever the court reaches the provisional view that:
- the custody threshold has been passed; and, if so
- the length of imprisonment which represents the shortest term commensurate with the seriousness of the offence;
the court should obtain a pre-sentence report, whether verbal or written, unless the court considers a report to be unnecessary. Ideally a pre-sentence report should be completed on the same day to avoid adjourning the case.
Magistrates: Consult your legal adviser before deciding to sentence to custody without a pre-sentence report.
Suspended Sentences: General Guidance
i) The guidance regarding pre-sentence reports applies if suspending custody.
ii) If the court imposes a term of imprisonment of between 14 days and 2 years (subject to magistrates’ courts sentencing powers), it may suspend the sentence for between 6 months and 2 years (the ‘operational period’). The time for which a sentence is suspended should reflect the length of the sentence; up to 12 months might normally be appropriate for a suspended sentence of up to 6 months.
iii) Where the court imposes two or more sentences to be served consecutively, the court may suspend the sentence where the aggregate of the terms is between 14 days and 2 years (subject to magistrates’ courts sentencing powers).
iv) When the court suspends a sentence, it may impose one or more requirements for the offender to undertake in the community. The requirements are identical to those available for community orders, see the guideline on Imposition of Community and Custodial Sentences.
v) A custodial sentence that is suspended should be for the same term that would have applied if the sentence was to be served immediately.
The following may be particularly relevant but these lists are not exhaustive
Factors indicating higher culpability
- Disregarding warnings of others
- Evidence of alcohol or drugs
- Carrying out other tasks while driving
- Carrying passengers or heavy load
- Aggressive driving, such as driving much too close to vehicle in front, racing, inappropriate attempts to overtake, or cutting in after overtaking
- Driving when knowingly suffering from a medical condition which significantly impairs the offender’s driving skills
- Driving a poorly maintained or dangerously loaded vehicle, especially where motivated by commercial concerns
Factors indicating greater degree of harm
- Injury to others
- Damage to other vehicles or property
Factors indicating lower culpability
- Genuine emergency
- Speed not excessive
- Offence due to inexperience rather than irresponsibility of driver
Factors indicating higher culpability:
- Offence committed whilst on bail for other offences
- Failure to respond to previous sentences
- Offence was racially or religiously aggravated
- Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility to the victim based on his or her sexual orientation (or presumed sexual orientation)
- Offence motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility based on the victim’s disability (or presumed disability)
Previous conviction(s), particularly where a pattern of repeat offending is disclosed
Effective from: 01 October 2019
Care should be taken to avoid double counting factors including those already taken into account in assessing culpability or harm or those inherent in the offence
Guidance on the use of previous convictions
The following guidance should be considered when seeking to determine the degree to which previous convictions should aggravate sentence:
Section 65 of the Sentencing Code states that:
(1) This section applies where a court is considering the seriousness of an offence (“the current offence”) committed by an offender who has one or more relevant previous convictions.
(2) The court must treat as an aggravating factor each relevant previous conviction that it considers can reasonably be so treated, having regard in particular to—
(a) the nature of the offence to which the conviction relates and its relevance to the current offence, and
(b) the time that has elapsed since the conviction.
(3) Where the court treats a relevant previous conviction as an aggravating factor under subsection (2) it must state in open court that the offence is so aggravated.
- Previous convictions are considered at step two in the Council’s offence-specific guidelines.
- The primary significance of previous convictions (including convictions in other jurisdictions) is the extent to which they indicate trends in offending behaviour and possibly the offender’s response to earlier sentences.
- Previous convictions are normally relevant to the current offence when they are of a similar type.
- Previous convictions of a type different from the current offence may be relevant where they are an indication of persistent offending or escalation and/or a failure to comply with previous court orders.
- Numerous and frequent previous convictions might indicate an underlying problem (for example, an addiction) that could be addressed more effectively in the community and will not necessarily indicate that a custodial sentence is necessary.
- If the offender received a non-custodial disposal for the previous offence, a court should not necessarily move to a custodial sentence for the fresh offence.
- In cases involving significant persistent offending, the community and custody thresholds may be crossed even though the current offence normally warrants a lesser sentence. If a custodial sentence is imposed it should be proportionate and kept to the necessary minimum.
- The aggravating effect of relevant previous convictions reduces with the passage of time; older convictions are less relevant to the offender’s culpability for the current offence and less likely to be predictive of future offending.
- Where the previous offence is particularly old it will normally have little relevance for the current sentencing exercise.
- The court should consider the time gap since the previous conviction and the reason for it. Where there has been a significant gap between previous and current convictions or a reduction in the frequency of offending this may indicate that the offender has made attempts to desist from offending in which case the aggravating effect of the previous offending will diminish.
- Where the current offence is significantly less serious than the previous conviction (suggesting a decline in the gravity of offending), the previous conviction may carry less weight.
- When considering the totality of previous offending a court should take a rounded view of the previous crimes and not simply aggregate the individual offences.
- Where information is available on the context of previous offending this may assist the court in assessing the relevance of that prior offending to the current offence
- Planning of an offence
- An intention to commit more serious harm than actually resulted from the offence
- Offenders operating in groups or gangs
- ‘Professional’ offending
- Commission of the offence for financial gain (where this is not inherent in the offence itself)
- High level of profit from the offence
- An attempt to conceal or dispose of evidence
- Failure to respond to warnings or concerns expressed by others about the offender’s behaviour
- Offence committed whilst on licence
- Offence motivated by hostility towards a minority group, or a member or members of it
- Deliberate targeting of vulnerable victim(s)
- Commission of an offence while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Use of a weapon to frighten or injure victim
- Deliberate and gratuitous violence or damage to property, over and above what is needed to carry out the offence
- Abuse of power
- Abuse of a position of trust
Factors indicating a more than usually serious degree of harm:
- Multiple victims
- An especially serious physical or psychological effect on the victim, even if unintended
- A sustained assault or repeated assaults on the same victim
- Victim is particularly vulnerable
- Location of the offence (for example, in an isolated place)
- Offence is committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public
- Presence of others e.g. relatives, especially children or partner of the victim
- Additional degradation of the victim (e.g. taking photographs of a victim as part of a sexual offence)
- In property offences, high value (including sentimental value) of property to the victim, or substantial consequential loss (e.g. where the theft of equipment causes serious disruption to a victim’s life or business)
Factors indicating lower culpability:
- A greater degree of provocation than normally expected
- Mental illness or disability
- Youth or age, where it affects the responsibility of the individual defendant
- The fact that the offender played only a minor role in the offence
Form a preliminary view of the appropriate sentence, then consider offender mitigation
- Genuine remorse
- Admissions to police in interview
- Ready co-operation with authorities
Consider a reduction for a guilty plea
- Reduction in Sentence for a Guilty Plea (where first hearing is on or after 1 June 2017, or first hearing before 1 June 2017).
Consider ancillary orders, including compensation and deprivation of property
Where the offence has resulted in personal injury, loss or damage the court must give reasons if it decides not to order compensation (Sentencing Code, s.55).