Where offenders have previously been convicted of one or more criminal offences, the court must take this previous offending into account as an aggravating factor when sentencing in respect of a new offence, providing that it considers that it is ‘reasonable’ to do so. Previous convictions can consequently have the effect of increasing the severity of the sentence imposed on an offender. Whilst the majority of offenders being sentenced by the courts will have at least one previous conviction, a previous conviction should be ‘relevant’ in order for it to have an impact on a new sentence being imposed. The relevance of a previous conviction will usually depend on the degree of similarity between the previous offence and the current offence, as well as the amount of time which has passed since the previous offence.

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Roberts, J.V. and Pina-Sánchez, P. (2014) Previous convictions at sentencing: Exploring empirical trends in the Crown Court’. Criminal Law Review, 8:575-588