A Smarter Approach to Sentencing?

17th September 2020 Business Crime

The new sentencing Bill 2020, is a major piece of new legislation which is clearly intended to completely overhaul and codify the sentencing regime in UK Criminal Courts.

The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, said in a speech to the Commons, regarding the Bill:

“This White Paper is an opportunity to grow trust and confidence in the sentencing system – in its ability to make the smart choices to protect the public from the harmful effects of crime, in whatever form they take.”

The aim is to simplify the currently over-complicated and sometimes opaque sentencing procedure and to reduce the number of illegal sentences handed out.

“In 2012 a study of 262 randomly selected cases before the Court of Appeal found that 95 cases involved unlawful sentences. In evidence to the Special Public Bill Committee, the Registrar of Criminal Appeals stated that, in the week commencing 26 June 2019, 14 of the 52 cases before the court involved an unlawful sentence (about 25%)”

By introducing the Code, the Government would reduce the number of unlawful sentences imposed and save approximately £250 million over ten years.”.

The Bill runs to over 602 pages, it has 420 sections with 29 additional schedules, which is an indication of the extent of its comprehensive reform provisions.

It has now completed its House of Lords stages and was presented to the House of Commons on Wednesday 9 September 2020. The date of the second reading is yet to be announced.

Some of the more controversial sections of the Bill can be found in Part 10, chapter 4, which relates to sentences for adults aged 21 and over.

Extended terms of imprisonment 

Section 279 and Schedule 18 provide for extended terms of imprisonment for adult offenders who are sentenced for serious violent or sexual offences. It also changes the automatic release point from halfway to the two-thirds point for such offenders.

The list of offences in schedule 18 to which these provisions relate is extensive, with over 43 different sections which include; sexual offences; robbery; aggravated burglary; racially; aggravated offences and many more.

The bill also has provisions to align how life tariffs are calculated with the extended release points for serious violent and sexual offenders.

By the introduction of this proposed legislation, it is the stated intention of this Government is to reverse the sentencing policies of previous Labour Governments.

Community Sentences

Part 9 Chapter 2 and schedule 9.

There are also provisions for tougher community sentences which include longer curfews and more hours of unpaid work. The Bill also includes a provision requiring offenders to seek permission before changing a place of residence, whilst subject to a community order -it being an offence not to dos so.

Whole life sentences.

Part 10 - Chapter 8,

This section requires that when a life sentence imposed the court must either make a minimum term order or a whole life order. The section will also extend the range of circumstances in which, for an adult, the starting point for the sentence in cases of murder is a whole life order. This will be particularly applicable to anyone convicted of murdering a child.

With the date of the second reading of the Bill not yet announced it is yet to be seen what amendments will be made to this Bill, as it passes through the commons. However, with such a strong government majority, most sections of the Bill are likely to experience little resistance before becoming the law.

If you have any questions related to sentencing provisions or any other business crime or criminal law issues, please do not hesitate to contact us as we have expertise, gained over many years and in on-going cases, to assist and guide you. ​​​​​​

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Phillip Barlow is a Solicitor located in Manchester in our Business Crime & Regulation department

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