The Sentencing Code: Everything Explained

Fri, 27 Nov 2020

The Sentencing Code – comes into force on 1st December 2020.

The Sentencing Code – replaces all existing sentencing procedure.

The Sentencing Code – does not introduce any substantial changes in the law itself, or alter the minimum and maximum sentences available

On 22nd October 2020, the Sentencing Act 2020 received Royal Assent.

The Sentencing Act 2020 introduces a simplified sentencing code which applies to all offenders convicted after 1st December 2020. The former sentencing regime still applies to offenders convicted before that date.

There is currently a myriad of different sentencing regimes.  There are apparently over 1300 pages of earlier legislation set aside simply for the sentencing process, some of which can be blamed on Edward III, and it can be time-consuming just to find which part of which act of parliament applies to which circumstance. Counsel and Judges should no longer have to spend vast amounts of time flipping from one end of Archbold to another looking for the flipping bit they want.  It is now all there in one easy to read compendium.

The purpose of the Sentencing Code is to untangle the approach to sentencing, reduce mistakes and Appeals, in theory at least, and to make the process more accessible and transparent, even to Counsel and Judges.

The Sentencing Act 2020 is substantial - 14 Parts containing 420 sections and 29 schedules. It may have more chapters than a Dickens novel but its size is its strength. The new code brings under one roof all you need to know about the sentencing procedure without having to shop anywhere else. This is the first time ever we have been able to find everything in one place, have it at our fingertips and on the tip of our tongue.

The Sentencing Code will not replace the existing law or introduce any new substantive laws. The maximum and minimum sentences for an offence remain the same.  The definitive sentencing guidelines will still point the way to the appropriate sentencing brackets and starting points.

It is a superb replacement for the convoluted, complicated and cumbersome patchwork of different sentencing materials we have all had to get to grips with, and Practitioners will be delighted at the time saving and ease involved.

So for example: -

In Part 2, Chapter 1 tells you all you need to know about Deferred Sentences, Chapter 2 about Committals for Sentence, Chapter 3 about remitting a case back to the Youth or Magistrates Court for sentence and so on.

Part 3 – deals with procedures to follow e.g. Chapter 5 deals with when the Court needs to give reasons. 

Part 4 deals with the purpose of sentencing including the use of sentencing guidelines.  Then the code continues to deal with the methods of disposal available for the Court in turn e.g. fines, compensation, community order, custody.

There is nothing magical about the provisions themselves. The magic is that they all feature in one place in an easy stage process, e.g. you want to consider a suspended sentence and what provisions can be attached to it, go to Part 10 – Custodial Sentences and Chapter 5.  Dangerousness and the assessment of dangerousness go to Chapter 6.  Minimum sentences go to Chapter 7 etc.  There is even a chapter to follow if seeking to review a sentence as a prosecutor.

This is a comprehensive guide to all aspects of the sentencing process. It saves practitioners time on the procedure to let us get on with the substance.

It is Ronseal legislation. To say any more about it, would be to make it sound more complicated than it is.

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