Triable either way
Maximum when tried summarily: Level 5 fine
Maximum when tried on indictment: 2 years
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|
|Use of unaltered licence from another vehicle||Band B fine||Band B fine|
|Forged licence bought for own use, or forged/ altered for own use||Band C fine||Band C fine|
|Use of number plates from another vehicle; or Licence/number plates forged or altered for sale to another||High level community order (in Crown Court)||Medium level community order to Crown Court
Note: community order and custody available only in Crown Court
|Fine Band A||50% of relevant weekly income||25 – 75% of relevant weekly income|
|Fine Band B||100% of relevant weekly income||75 – 125% of relevant weekly income|
|Fine Band C||150% of relevant weekly income||125 – 175% of relevant weekly income|
|Fine Band D||250% of relevant weekly income||200 – 300% of relevant weekly income|
|Fine Band E||400% of relevant weekly income||300 – 500% of relevant weekly income|
|Fine Band F||600% of relevant weekly income||500 – 700% of relevant weekly income|
- The court should determine the appropriate level of fine in accordance with this guideline and section 125 of the Sentencing Code, which requires that the fine must reflect the seriousness of the offence and that the court must take into account the financial circumstances of the offender.
- Where possible, if a financial penalty is imposed, it should remove any economic benefit the offender has derived through the commission of the offence including:
- avoided costs;
- operating savings;
- any gain made as a direct result of the offence.
- The fine should meet, in a fair and proportionate way, the objectives of punishment, deterrence and the removal of gain derived through the commission of the offence; it should not be cheaper to offend than to comply with the law.
- In considering economic benefit, the court should avoid double recovery.
- Where the means of the offender are limited, priority should be given to compensation (where applicable) over payment of any other financial penalty.
- Where it is not possible to calculate or estimate the economic benefit, the court may wish to draw on information from the enforcing authorities about the general costs of operating within the law.
- When sentencing organisations the fine must be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders the need to comply with the law. The court should ensure that the effect of the fine (particularly if it will result in closure of the business) is proportionate to the gravity of the offence.
- Obtaining financial information: It is for the offender to disclose to the court such data relevant to their financial position as will enable it to assess what they can reasonably afford to pay. If necessary, the court may compel the disclosure of an individual offender’s financial circumstances pursuant to section 35 of the Sentencing Code. In the absence of such disclosure, or where the court is not satisfied that it has been given sufficient reliable information, the court will be entitled to draw reasonable inferences as to the offender’s means from evidence it has heard and from all the circumstances of the case. In setting a fine, the court may conclude that the offender is able to pay any fine imposed unless the offender has supplied financial information to the contrary.
B. Consider the effect of aggravating and mitigating factors (other than those within examples above)
The following may be particularly relevant but these lists are not exhaustive
Factors indicating higher culpability
- LGV, PSV, taxi etc.
- Long-term fraudulent use
Factors indicating greater degree of harm
- High financial gain
- Innocent victim deceived
- Legitimate owner inconvenienced
Factors indicating lower culpability
- Licence/registration mark from another vehicle owned by defendant
- Short-term use
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 of relevance to the current offence when they are of a similar type.
- Previous convictions of a type different from the current offence may be of relevance 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 of less relevance 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
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).