30 September 2020

The Ministry of Justice published its sentencing White Paper, promising ‘A Smarter Approach to Sentencing’, on 16 September 2020. It contains a number of headline-grabbing amendments to the release arrangements for offenders convicted of certain violent or sexual offences premised on the grounds of better protecting the public and restoring public confidence in sentencing. We are doubtful that these proposals will achieve either objective and the White Paper fails to provide evidence to support either proposition. The immediate result of these amendments will be the most complicated system of release arrangements we have ever had in England and Wales.

However, the White Paper contains a number of other proposals that might offer the possibility of more effective sentencing through a more tailored approach to non-custodial sentences. Whilst we welcome these proposals we must await further detail before we can be confident that the Government is as committed to effective sentencing as it is to a more punitive approach to certain offenders.

We set out our preliminary response to the possible practical implications of many of the key sentencing proposals here: