Providing judges and magistrates with sentencing guidelines is the primary duty of the Council. We take a number of steps in the process of developing our guidelines from first draft, through the consultation stages and on to developing the definitive version that will be used by the judiciary.

Step 1 – Priorities

The Council identifies priorities for the development of guidelines. This decision could be made on the basis of concerns about an existing guideline, identifying offence types that lack a guideline or because we have been required by statute to look at a particular area.

Step 2 – Research

We undertake research, carry out policy and legal investigations and consider outcomes of current sentencing practice for different demographic groups. The Council meets to talk about the guideline and agree the approach that should be taken, and an initial draft guideline is created.

Step 3 – Approach

Council members discuss the draft guideline, refine the approach and agree on the broad structure and detail that will form the basis for consultation.

Step 4 – Consultation

We consult our statutory consultees, criminal justice professionals and the wider public, usually over a 12-week period. We also produce a draft resource assessment and an equality impact assessment to support the consultation.

Step 5 – Responses

The Council carefully considers the responses to the consultation and develops a definitive version of the guideline. We also produce a consultation response paper, resource assessment and equality impact assessment.

Step 6 – Publication

We publish the definitive guideline, which will come into force at a later date. Where necessary, we also support training for sentencers in using the new guideline.

Step 7 – Monitoring

Once a guideline is in force, the Council monitors its use and effect, including assessing its impact of different demographic groups, using data collection and other research.

Our approach

The Council is outward-facing, responsive and consultative and draws on expertise from relevant fields wherever necessary to inform our work. We aim to foster close working relationships with judicial, government and non-government bodies while retaining the Council’s independence. We engage with the public on sentencing, provide information and encourage debate. We focus on three areas of work; sentencing guidelines, research and analysis and improving public confidence.

Public consultation

The Council routinely consults members of the public about our work. We publish drafts of each of our guidelines for consultation, and almost always amend draft guidelines in the light of consultation responses, sometimes quite fundamentally. We also seek responses from criminal justice professionals, subject experts and others with an interest in criminal justice or the topic of the guideline. The Government will also normally respond to our consultations. We promote all our consultations and publish them on the website.

As well as consultations, the Council conducts research with the public and victims to ensure that the guidelines fully reflect the harm caused to victims by offending.

Public confidence

The Council works to improve public confidence in sentencing. We do this by increasing the quantity and quality of information and engagement available to the public on sentencing. In all of our work on confidence we look to understand and respond to the needs of members of the public who are directly affected by sentencing, particularly as victims and witnesses.

Research and analysis

The Act places a number of obligations on the Council with regard to monitoring and data analysis. To fulfill these statutory obligations the Council is responsible for its own independent statistical analysis, impact assessments and research to support its functions. To find out more about this subject, see the research and resources pages.