There are many types of sentence that a judge or magistrates can pass. They range from fines, which are given for lower-level offences, up to life sentences in prison for the most serious crimes. There are four main types of sentence:

  • Discharge
  • Fine
  • Community sentence
  • Custodial sentence

This short video gives an overview of the different types of sentence (if you can’t watch the video you could read the transcript).

How are sentences decided?

The judge or magistrates will decide which type of sentence is right by referring to sentencing guidelines and the law. They will decide how long the sentence should be, what requirements should be included and the amount of any fine. All these decisions will depend on the facts of the crime and how serious it is. The seriousness of an offence is determined by looking at the:

  • harm caused or intended to be caused, and
  • culpability (blameworthiness) of the offender.

The sentence imposed will always depend on the facts of the individual case.

More information

The Ministry of Justice, Home Office and other government departments routinely publish data on crime and justice, including information on different types of sentencing.