Public sector equality duty
The public sector equality duty (PSED) is set out in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010. It is a legal duty that requires public authorities such as the Sentencing Council to have due regard to three ‘needs’ when considering a new policy or operational proposal:
- to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited under the 2010 Act,
- to advance equality of opportunity between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not, and
- to foster good relations between those who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
Under the PSED, the protected characteristics are:
- Gender reassignment
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
When we are developing guidelines, we consider the PSED in the context of the individual offence(s). Where there are offences that are aggravated by reasons of being related to a protected characteristic, this will be of particular relevance. Most guidelines include statutory aggravating factors at step two, relating to offences motivated by, or demonstrating hostility based on protected characteristics. The Council will consider data in relation to offenders sentenced for the offence(s) including data on volumes of offenders sentenced grouped by sex, ethnicity and age. This data is published at the same time as the draft and definitive guidelines. Our consultation documents include a consideration of the issues raised by the data, and we ask our consultees:
- could any of the factors in a draft guideline, or the ways in which they are expressed, risk being interpreted in ways which could lead to discrimination against particular groups, and
- are there any other equality or diversity issues the guideline has not considered?