Government responds to Sentencing Code

The Government has provided its final response to the Sentencing Code Report.

The Law Commission Report and accompanying Bill – The Sentencing Code – were published in November 2018. The Sentencing Code will simplify the law of sentencing procedure and bring it into one statute, whilst also removing unnecessary provisions and updating the language. The changes will reduce delays by making the sentencing process easier, simpler and clearer. The Law Commission’s Report made recommendations to provide a “clean sweep” of old sentencing law so that anyone convicted once the Code is in force would automatically be sentenced under the current law subject to necessary exceptions to safeguard defendants’ fundamental rights. The “clean sweep” will consign multiple layers of redundant legislation to history making the law easier to apply.

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.

Robert Buckland QC, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice thanked the Law Commission “for the enormous effort that has gone into producing the Report and accompanying legislation” and for working closely with the Ministry of Justice on the project.

The final response confirms that the Ministry of Justice has already accepted and implemented the key recommendation of introducing the Code. The Government has introduced both the Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill and the Sentencing Bill to Parliament and will hopefully enact the Code in the near future.

The response from the Government also laid out the Government’s considerations and final decisions on the other recommendations made by the Law Commission.

You can read the Government’s response and see the progress of the Sentencing Bills here.

Professor Penney Lewis, Criminal Law Commissioner said:

“A new Sentencing Code will make a real difference by saving time and money, reducing delays and making the law clearer and easier to apply.

“We’re glad that the Government accepted our main recommendations and has introduced the Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill and the Sentencing Bill to Parliament. We look forward to the Code being enacted soon.”