The General guideline may also be used with offence-specific sentencing guidelines where some factors are not covered and the courts require overarching guidance.
The Council will schedule the production of a guideline according to one or more of the following factors:
- The Lord Chancellor or Lord Chief Justice formally asks the Council to review sentencing for a particular offence, particular category of offence or particular category of offender and to produce a guideline
- New legislation requires supporting sentencing guidelines
- Guidelines issued by the Council’s predecessor body (Sentencing Guidelines Council) require conversion into the Council’s step-by-step approach to sentencing
- Current guidelines are out of date or incomplete
- A substantial body of interested parties request a guideline to be issued for a particular area of sentencing
- Sentencing data suggests that there may be inconsistency in sentencing for a particular offence, particular category of offence or particular category of offender
- Evidence suggests that a guideline would have a significant effect on sentencing practice, for example, the potential range of available sentences is wide and/or the number of offences sentenced is significant
The process, from first consideration by the Council to publication of a definitive guideline, can extend to 18 months or more but, if the Council believes there is a pressing need, it can be expedited.
In developing guidelines, the Council follows a process that is based on the policy cycle set out by HM Treasury in the Green Book: Central Government Guidance on Appraisal and Evaluation (2018).
For more, see How the Council works.
By law, the Council is required to consider the impact of sentencing decisions on victims, and there must be a member on the Council who has experience of promoting the welfare of victims.
When developing guidelines, the Council makes sure the interests of victims of crime are considered by carrying out research to understand victims’ perceptions and experiences of crime.
Each guideline requires the court to start the sentencing process by assessing the harm that has been caused to the victim. The courts then need to decide how serious the offence is by looking at all the facts of the case, which will include examining factors that relate directly to the victim.
Before any guideline comes into force in the courts, the Council will conduct a public consultation and make particular efforts to ensure the views of victims are represented.
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