The Sentencing Council has launched a consultation on proposals for how guidance for courts on sexual offences should be brought up to date. It aims to give more focus to the impact on victims and reflect advances in technology, while making sure offenders are dealt with effectively.
Its draft sentencing guideline, which covers a large number of offences including rape, child sex offences, indecent images of children, trafficking and voyeurism, proposes a variety of changes to how offending is dealt with by the courts.
Some of the key changes in the proposed approach to sentencing are:
- a broader approach to assessing what victims have been through so that psychological and longer term effects on the victim are reflected, as well as physical harm;
- consideration of the full context of an offender's behaviour and motivation in committing any offence, including aspects such as grooming and abuse of trust; and
- acknowledgement of the increased use of technology in offences involving indecent images of children and the facilitation of sexual exploitation and grooming of children.
The guideline reinforces the importance of firm and proper punishment and the prevention of reoffending through significant custodial sentences or treatment programmes that will address the offender's behaviour.
The 14-week public consultation discusses how the courts should approach sentencing decisions, details the rationale behind the Council's thinking and explores the many issues involved in the sentencing process.
The consultation runs from 6 December 2012 to 14 March 2013 and is open to both criminal justice professionals and members of the public. It is split into sections so that respondents can focus on the subject area/s or offences that most interest them.
You can respond online by visiting the Sentencing Council's website
The Sentencing Council on the 10th October, 2012 launched a short animated film for victims and witnesses of crime to help them better understand sentencing. This is in response to feedback from victims and witnesses who say they feel intimidated by the court process.
It covers an overview of the kinds of sentence that can be passed down to an offender, along with an outline of what judges and magistrates take into account when making sentencing decisions.
The film has been developed in collaboration with Victim Support, and will be used in courts by their Witness Service volunteers.
If you would like to use the video, include a link to the video on your website or get more general information about sentencing, you can visit the Sentencing Council website
The Sentencing Guidelines Council's role is to encourage consistency of sentencing in all Courts in England and Wales, supporting Judges and Magistrates in their decision-making. It is an independent body with both judicial and non-judicial members, chaired by the Lord Chief Justice.
The Council receives advice from the Sentencing Advisory Panel on a particular sentencing topic and uses this to formulate sentencing guidelines on the subject. Here you will find the guidelines produced to encourage consistency in sentencing throughout England & Wales.
It is useful to refer to this site regularly, as consultations and updated guidelines are frequently posted:-
YOU BE THE JUDGE...Making Sense of Criminal Justice by trying this interative guide to Sentencing...
Confused by sentencing...? You be the Judge gives you an opportunity to sit in the judge's chair, to help demystify sentencing decisions.
Visit You be the Judge and you can choose from four scenarios based on real-life cases, each video lasting about six minutes. You can choose from cases of criminal damage, burglary, threatening behaviour and robbery.
You will hear the facts of the case, weigh up the aggravating and mitigating factors, and consider the offender's circumstances and the sentencing guidelines. As the judge, you get to choose the sentence and compare it to the actual sentence given. You'll also get to see what other people chose.
Thousands of people have already used the site, and interestingly their sentences are often more lenient than those given in court.
IMPORTANT NOTICE REGARDING
YOUNG OFFENDERS CONVICTED OF MURDER
Please find below information on Tariff Reviews. The information makes clear who is entitled to have their Tariff reviewed, and will help us to ensure we are all giving families the correct information on Sentencing. It has become clear to us that many strategic organisations are not aware of this ruling. Many third sector organisations continue to be unaware, that in some cases, a minimum sentence can be reviewed and indeed halved.
It is important to remember that to be able to apply for this Review in the first instance, behaviour must have been exemplary during custody and even then not guaranteed success. The review is only available to those who committed their offence while they were under 18. Families are able to make an Impact Statement...the Probation Victim Liaison Officer should inform you of how to go about this.
Tariff review process for young offenders convicted of murder:
This applies to those who are convicted of a murder committed when they were aged under 18, regardless of their age at the date of sentence, for whom the mandatory sentence in
The tariff review provisions for HMP detainees were introduced as a result of the House of Lords judgment in the case of R v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Smith given in 2005. The House of Lords ruled that those sentenced to HMP detention before 30 November 2000 must be kept under continuing review by the Secretary of State so tariffs can be reduced if clear evidence of exceptional progress is shown. The Secretary of State decided to extend these arrangements to cover all HMP detainees regardless of the date of their sentence.
Prior to November 2000, HMP detainees could request that the Secretary of State review their tariff at any time but formal periodic reviews were not introduced until June 1997. They were abolished in March 1999 when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Government Ministers should not have any involvement in tariff-setting. Following that decision arrangements were made for those unexpired tariffs set by Ministers to be reviewed by the Lord Chief Justice, who would recommend reductions where appropriate.
Section 103 of the Children Act 1906 introduced the HMP sentence to reflect the reduced responsibility and special needs of those committing murder as children and young people. It was a sentence expressly different to the sentence which the law required to be imposed on adult murderers in that it required account to be taken of the detainees welfare. The House of Lords observed that this aspect of the sentence has never been revoked in any subsequent legislation. They ruled that the Secretary of State should have abolished the reviews in 1999 because the requirement to hold the review was based on the nature of the sentence itself, not who was responsible for setting the tariff to be reviewed.
Under the periodic review process that is now in place, once a detainee has served half of his tariff period he is invited to apply for a tariff review. The reviews are not automatic and only those who apply will receive one. The entitlement to a review extends to all detainees given an HMP sentence regardless of their age at date of sentence or their current age. Once an application is made, a dossier of background papers is prepared and the relevant prison is asked produce a set of Tariff Assessment Reports describing the detainee's progress. The victim's family is notified of the review through their VLO and are invited to submit a Victim Impact Statement, which is included in the dossier along with the detainee's written representations. The application is then sent to a High Court judge who provides the Secretary of State with a recommendation on whether the existing tariff should be reduced or not. The decision to grant a reduction lies with the Secretary of State based on the the court's advice but given that all other tariff matters are now the responsibility of the judges, the Secretary of State has given an undertaking to honour the recommendation of the High Court in all cases.
E. & O.E.