The Sentencing Council for England and Wales was set up in April 2010 to promote greater transparency and consistency in sentencing, while maintaining the independence of the judiciary.

The primary role of the Council is to issue guidelines on sentencing, which the courts must follow unless it is in the interests of justice not to do so.

The Sentencing Council is an independent, non-departmental public body. We are part of the Ministry of Justice family of arm’s-length bodies.

The Council has responsibility for:

  • developing sentencing guidelines and monitoring their use
  • assessing the impact of guidelines on sentencing practice. The Council may also be required to consider the impact of policy and legislative proposals relating to sentencing, when requested by the Government, and
  • promoting awareness among the public regarding the realities of sentencing, and publishing information about sentencing practice in magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court.

The Council must also:

  • consider the impact on victims of sentencing decisions
  • monitor the application of the guidelines, and
  • when developing guidelines, promote understanding of, and public confidence in, sentencing and the criminal justice system.

Appointments to Council

Judicial appointments to the Council are made by the Lord Chief Justice with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor. Non-judicial appointments are made by the Lord Chancellor with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice, following open competition.

There are 14 members of the Sentencing Council.

Accountability and governance

The Council is accountable to Parliament for delivering our statutory obligations, which are set out in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

The Council is accountable to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, as our accounting officer, and to Ministers for how we use the public funds that are delegated to the Council. Ministers are also responsible for protecting the Council’s independence. The Director General of the Policy, Communications and Analysis Group at the Ministry of Justice is accountable for making sure that effective arrangements are in place for oversight of the Council in its statutory functions and as one of the Ministry’s non-departmental bodies.

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State and the Lord Chief Justice have a representative at every meeting of the Council.

The 2009 Act also provides that the Lord Chancellor “may provide the Council with such assistance as it requests in connection with the performance of its functions”.

Relationship with Parliament

The Council has a statutory requirement to consult with Parliament. Members of the Council also appear before the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, as requested.