Publication types:
Research report

Publication topics:
Equality and diversity

Published on:

10 January 2023

  • Report: Equality and diversity in the work of the Sentencing Council (pdf) (odt)
  • Response: Sentencing Council response to equality and diversity research (pdf) (odt)

The Sentencing Council has an overarching objective to promote a fair approach to sentencing, thus placing equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of our work. As part of our five-year plan, we have set ourselves a strategic objective:

To explore the potential for the Council’s work inadvertently to cause disparity in sentencing across demographic groups by commissioning independent external contractors to undertake a project to review a sample of key guidelines and processes.

In support of this objective, the Council commissioned the University of Hertfordshire to conduct research into Equality and diversity in the work of the Sentencing Council.

The research aimed to identify and analyse any potential for the Council’s work to cause disparity in sentencing outcomes across demographic groups, and to make recommendations for how to mitigate these disparities, if possible. It examined the role of selected sentencing guidelines (robbery, theft from the person, theft from a shop or stall, theft in breach of trust, handling stolen goods, and harassment and stalking) for their impact on certain groups of offenders, and presented perceptions about equality and diversity in the application of the sentencing guidelines.

A multi-method approach was employed: text analysis of the selected guidelines; statistical analysis of Crown Court Sentencing Survey data; and engaging with stakeholders throughout the project. It took into consideration the Equality Act 2010 protected characteristics groups, with a specific focus on those more relevant to sentencing, and where sufficient data exist, namely race, age and sex.

In light of the findings and the recommendations proposed in the research, we have published a response setting out the steps we are now taking which include:

  • reviewing the use and application of aggravating and mitigating factors and expanded explanations in sentencing guidelines 
  • reviewing the Imposition of community and custodial sentences guideline, which is looking at whether and when sentencers request pre-sentence reports and so receive all the information needed about an offender 
  • collecting data in magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court that will provide further information for research 
  • conducting user testing of our digital guidelines, to explore how sentencers use the sentencing guidelines, including how they use the expanded explanations.