Sentencing Law- Cleaning Up The Mess
Sentencing Law- Cleaning Up The Mess
It has become an extremely wide-held view that sentencing law in England and Wales has become a serious mess. The provisions that govern the way in which a defendant should be sentenced are both very complex and disparate and to be found across a significant number of statutes.
Why does this matter?
Well, there has been research conducted in this area which shows that a horrifically high number of errors, reaching the thousands are made every year, with many going completely undetected. While some mistakes don’t have too much impact in practice, other failures lead to unlawful sentences being imposed.
Although the complexity of the statutory provisions is an important consideration, we also need to take note of a large body of case law. Here we see many more errors, including significant errors with regards to protective orders where conditions imposed are unnecessarily draconian.
Errors in sentencing can lead to a failure to protect victims, inappropriate sentences for defendants, and appeal proceedings that are often very costly, yet necessary to correct the mistakes. It is concerning that the Court of Appeal does often makes mistakes itself.
So, what is being proposed?
A proposal has been put forward by the Law Commission in the form of a ‘Sentencing Code’; this will be a single Act of Parliament that will place all sentencing provisions in one place.
To achieve this, a two-stage process will take place:
- Minor amendments to existing statutes will be made to ‘tidy up’ the statute book.
- Immediately afterwards the provisions will be consolidated into one Act of Parliament (‘the sweep’).
This clean sweep of law will then lead to a single consolidated statutory provision that can then have more amendments made to it in the future.
It is must be noted that this procedure is purely a consolidating procedure, so apart from some small changes to legislation, there is no material change to our current law and no increases to existing sentences will come into play.
Will this make a difference?
Given that the effect of this is simply to move sentencing law into one single statute, it is a reasonable question to ask whether this is going to really make a difference.
There were positive results when the Law Commission carried out extensive testing of the proposals, and demonstrated that having a single reference point for sentencing leads to fewer errors. Although it seems that errors will continue to be made in some form and for various reasons, we should still see a huge reduction in them.
When will these changes happen?
It seems as though the new provisions could be finding their way into law within a matter of months as the first piece of legislation was laid in the House of Lords last week. One factor in this is the uncertain political situation that the country is currently in. Much will also depend on the legislative timetable.
Following the introduction of relevant legislation, then training will be required for lawyers and judges before the new statute takes effect, so we are looking at mid-2020 in all likelihood.
What happens until then?
Until that time, we will continue to be alert and aware on your behalf. Our lawyers take great care to ensure that lawful and proportionate sentences are passed and will not hesitate to take corrective action if it is required. Our ethos is to work hard to avoid mistakes in the first place, while all of our advocates are highly trained in the complexities of sentencing law.
How we can assist
If you need specialist advice, then get in touch with 0161 477 1121 or email us and let us help. We deal with all manner criminal offences on a daily basis and the the expertise to get you the best result possible.