Sentencing Penalties

Credit for pleading guilty

Credit is always given for a guilty plea: the earlier the plea, the greater the credit given.

Common Sentences for many offences

  • an absolute discharge - this is usually where little or no blame is attached to the offender
  • a conditional discharge - where you are given a chance to prove yourself by staying out of trouble - this is rarely given twice!
  • a fine,
  • a compensation order,
  • a community penalty which will include a period of supervision - i.e. regular reporting to your supervising probation officer,
  • a community order may include unpaid work in the community (up to 240 hours for adults),
  • a curfew order can also be included,
  • in suitable cases a community order may include a drink or drug rehabilitation requirement,
  • a drug treatment and testing order in appropriate cases,
  • a deferred sentence - this is usually used as a last chance for someone facing prison to prove themselves

Custody options for adults:

  • youth custody (18 - 21s only),
  • a prison sentence of up to six months in the magistrates' court
  • the Crown Court can impose longer prison sentences up to the maximum allowed by law
  • a suspended prison sentence with conditions attached.

Youths (under 18)

  • a youth rehabilitation order which can include various options:
    • referral order – first offence only,
    • a reparation order,
    • an attendance centre order,
    • a supervision order,
    • an action plan order,
  • a detention and training order of between 4 and 24 months

Other Orders

  • a parenting order (youth cases)
  • a football banning order
  • an exclusion order (this bars you from certain licensed premises)
  • an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO)

Costs

  • You are likely to be ordered to pay a contribution towards prosecution costs,
  • Also in some cases in the Crown Court, if you are on legal aid, the judge may order you to pay towards the cost of your defence.

The Sentencing Council

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

The Sentencing Council is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice and replaces the Sentencing Guidelines Council and the Sentencing Advisory Panel.

The current published guidelines include definitive guidelines for a range of offences including assault, certain sexual offences, burglary, causing death by driving, fraud and corporate manslaughter. The guidelines can be found here: Current published guidelines

The Sentencing Council has various consultations in progress including a consultation paper in relation to Dangerous Dog offences. The link can be found here: Consultation on Dangerous Dog Offences

Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines

The Sentencing Council has issues guidelines that cover most of the offences that regularly come before a magistrates’ court which require decisions on allocation or sentence. The guidelines also contain general explanatory material. The link can be found here: Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines

There are additional notes on the following groups of offences:

Sentencing Guidelines for assault

In March 2011 the Sentencing Counsel issued new guidelines for assault matters. The new definitive guideline can be found here: www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk

A summary of the range of sentences can be found below:

Causing grievous bodily harm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm or wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm - Section 18 Offences Against the Person Act 1861;
This offence happens when an offender inflicts grievous bodily harm (GBH) intentionally, or causes it to prevent himself or someone else being lawfully apprehended or detained.
GBH means really serious physical harm or psychological harm, while wounding requires a breaking of the skin. The types of injuries inflicted include permanent disability, disfigurement, broken bones and injuries requiring lengthy treatment.
The new guideline gives a sentencing range of between three and 16 years’ imprisonment, which will cover the majority of cases, but judges can impose a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for exceptionally serious instances of the offence.

Unlawful wounding/causing grievous bodily harm - Section 20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861; Racially/religiously aggravated GBH/Unlawful wounding – section 29 Crime and Disorder Act
This offence occurs when the offender wounds or causes GBH, with or without a weapon, and either intended some kind of bodily harm to someone or was reckless as to whether any such harm might be caused. The level of harm is the same for this offence as in the offence above (section 18); therefore, the type of injuries inflicted are the same. The difference between this and the previous offence is the intention of the offender at the time of committing it.
The new guideline gives a sentencing range of a community order to four years’ imprisonment, but judges can impose a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment for this offence for the most serious offences. If it is charged as a racially or religiously aggravated form of the offence, the maximum is seven years.

Assault occasioning actual bodily harm - Section 47 Offences Against the Person Act 1861;
This offence occurs when an offender causes actual bodily harm (ABH) to someone . This is harm which affects their health or wellbeing. The level of harm caused is less serious as for section 18 or section 20 above. The types of injury inflicted for this offence include: loss or breaking of teeth; temporary loss of consciousness extensive or multiple bruising; displaced / broken nose; minor fractures; cuts requiring medical treatment such as stitches, and psychiatric injury not including mere emotions, such as fear, distress or panic. The new guideline gives a sentencing range of a fine, up to three years’ imprisonment for this offence. There is a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment available, however, and if it is racially or religiously aggravated, the maximum is seven years.

Assault with intent to resist arrest - Section 38 Offences Against the Person Act 1861;
This offence occurs when an offender assaults any person carrying out a public service, such as a police officer or security officer, in order to resist or prevent himself or someone else being apprehended or detained. The offence will involve little or no physical harm - if more serious injuries were inflicted, an ABH or GBH charge would be brought. The most important consideration for the sentencer is therefore the intention of the offender. If the assault is on a police officer, a charge under "assault on a police constable in execution of his duty" (Section 89 Police Act 1996) may be brought, unless there is clear evidence of intent to resist apprehension or prevent detention and the sentencing powers available under section 89 or for common assault (maximum 6 months' imprisonment) are inadequate.
The new guideline gives a sentencing range of a fine, up to 12 months’ imprisonment for this offence. There is a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment for the most serious cases.

Assault on a police constable in execution of his duty – Section 89 Police Act 1996;
This offence occurs when an offender assaults either a police officer acting in the execution of his or her public duty or someone helping them in this duty. The assault does not result in any serious physical harm and includes acts like pushing and shoving. The injuries sustained are equivalent to those for common assault - if more serious injuries were inflicted, then a more serious charge, like ABH, would be brought. The new guideline gives a sentencing range of a fine up to 26 weeks imprisonment for this offence. The maximum penalty for this offence is six months imprisonment.

• Common Assault - Section 39 Criminal Justice Act 1988.
Unlike ABH, it is not necessary for the victim to have been physically injured or harmed for a common assault charge to be brought - it is enough for the victim to fear that they would have been injured for common assault to occur. An offender can still be guilty of common assault if physical injury is caused, but the type of injury is relatively minor, such as a graze, scratch, minor bruising, swelling, or a superficial cut. The sentencing range is a discharge up to 26 weeks custody. There is a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment. If it is racially or religiously aggravated, the maximum is two years’ imprisonment.