A new sentencing code – consultation

Today we are opening the second consultation in our project to create a new sentencing code for England and Wales.

The law on sentencing affects all criminal cases, and is applied in hundreds of thousands of trials and at thousands of appeals each year. But it lacks coherence and clarity: it is spread across many statutes, and frequent updates are brought into force at different times by different statutory instruments and have a variety of transitional arrangements.

Our aim in this project is to introduce a single sentencing statute that will act as the first and only port of call for sentencing tribunals. It will set out the relevant provisions in a clear and logical way, and ensure that all updates to sentencing procedure can be found in a single place. It is not the aim of this project to interfere with mandatory minimum sentences or with sentencing tariffs in general. Those will remain entirely untouched, but the process by which they come to be imposed will be streamlined and much improved.

Unlike our first issues paper in July, this document, which sets out the legislation currently in force in England and Wales, does not directly address questions of policy. Instead, it is intended to be a complete statement of the current primary legislation governing sentencing, with short extracts from some common law and other guidance where these are central to the law in a particular area.

Professor David Ormerod QC, Law Commissioner for criminal law, said: “No one who is familiar with sentencing law will be surprised to learn that it extends to in excess of 1,300 pages. We do not envisage that many consultees will engage in detail with our compilation in its entirety. But we would encourage anyone with a particular interest in the law and practice of sentencing to look at any sections in which they have a particular interest or expertise.”

The consultation paper, Sentencing Law in England and Wales: Legislation Currently in Force, will be followed by a second issues paper in spring 2016. This will address a number of discrete policy issues that we believe require resolution as part of our task to consolidate and rationalise the law of sentencing.

Our consultation is open until 9 April 2016, and comment is welcomed to sentencing@lawcommission.gsi.gov.uk.