Sentencing Academy’s response to the A Smarter Approach to Sentencing White Paper

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:

Sentencing Academy Fellowship Scheme

14 September 2020

The Sentencing Academy is pleased to introduce its Fellowship Scheme aimed at encouraging people from disadvantaged and/or under-represented backgrounds intending to pursue a career in the field of criminal justice (for example, in research, policy, practice, the third sector or a criminal justice profession). Sentencing Academy Fellows will be supervised to produce a 5,000 word piece of research into an aspect of sentencing in England and Wales. A bursary of £1,500 will be awarded to each Fellow. There are two Fellowships on offer for the 2020-21 academic year.

To be eligible for the scheme, applicants must be in either the final year of an undergraduate degree course or studying for a taught postgraduate qualification (either an academic course or working towards a professional practice qualification) and have a demonstrable commitment to working in the field of criminal justice.

Additionally, they must have attended a state secondary school and satisfy one of the following criteria:

• Eligible for free school meals at some stage during secondary school; or
• First generation of immediate family to go to university; or
• Have been a looked after child at some stage during childhood.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday 16 October 2020.

For further details about the Sentencing Academy Fellowship Scheme and details about how to apply, please see the FAQs below:

Sentencing Academy response to ‘What next for the Sentencing Council?’ consultation

8 September 2020

The Sentencing Academy has submitted a response to the Sentencing Council’s ‘What next for the Sentencing Council?’ consultation (

Our response is available here:

Survey on the impact of the decision in Manning on sentencing practice

18 June 2020

The Sentencing Academy is seeking to collect anecdotal evidence about the extent to which the Court of Appeal’s decision at the end of April in Attorney General’s Reference (R. v Manning) [2020] EWCA Crim 592 has had an impact on sentencing practice. We are interested to find out whether this decision has subsequently been applied consistently by the courts and the frequency with which either shorter custodial sentences or sentences other than immediate custody have been imposed as a consequence.

If you have appeared in a sentencing hearing since 30 April 2020 we would be very grateful if you could spare a few minutes to complete the below survey, the findings of which may help inform us about whether further guidance is required as to how courts should take into account the current restrictive prison conditions when sentencing.

The survey can be found here:

Sentencing during the pandemic: What are the options?

15 June 2020

As activity in the courts begins to increase after the lockdown period, the question of what impact the coronavirus pandemic should have on the imposition of custodial sentences is likely to become more pertinent in the coming weeks. This briefing note sets out the options available to courts when considering how to take into account current prison conditions when sentencing.