Proposed changes to driving disqualifications guidelines

The Sentencing Council launched a consultation on proposed revisions to sentencing guidelines for driving offences disqualifications, breach of community orders and clarifications to some explanatory materials.

The proposals include:

  • Guidance covering ‘totting up’ disqualifications and sets out what considerations the courts should have regard to when considering whether there are grounds to reduce or avoid disqualification due to ‘exceptional hardship’.
  • Clarification to the guideline for driving whilst disqualified, making it clear additional disqualification should be added to any new disqualification period.
  • Amendment to guideline for sentencing offenders who breach community orders.
  • Clarification to the procedure followed when an offender given a community order by the Crown Court is convicted by a magistrates’ court of a new offence.
  • Clarification to the order of priority where an offender is unable to pay all court ordered financial penalties.
  • Amendment to the guideline for fining high-income offenders.

This consultation closes on 15 April 2020.

[The consultation paper can be accessed here]


Broadcasting of sentencing remarks

For the first time cameras will be permitted to broadcast from the Crown Court in England and Wales following the approval of The Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020 (SI 2020). The legislation will come into force the day after the day on which it is made.

The change will make it possible for the sentencing remarks of High Court and Senior Circuit Judges made in open court to be broadcasted. No other court users such as victims, witnesses, jurors, court staff or other court content, will be filmed.

[Full GOV.UK press release here]


Revised drug sentencing guidelines

The Sentencing Council launched a consultation on proposed revisions to sentencing guidelines for five drug offences that came into force in 2012 and to cover offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The revisions come following significant change in the nature of offending, the increased seriousness of the offences, emerging drugs and new offences in psychoactive substances.

The draft guidelines include:

  • New culpability factors for offenders playing a leading role in drug related activities, including exploitation of children and/or vulnerable persons, involving an innocent agent for importation or exportation of drugs and exercising control of the home of another person for the supply and production of drugs.
  • Introduction of a high culpability factor where a child/vulnerable person is used to deal drugs from their premises (known as “cuckooing”).
  • Guidance for sentencing offences concerning newer substances covered under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

This consultation closes on 7 May 2020.

[The consultation paper can be accessed here]


R. v PS, Dahir and CF [2019] EWCA Crim 2286

Lord Burnett (Lord Chief Justice), Lord Justice Fulford and Lord Justice Holroyde.

The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) considered three unconnected cases to provide guidance on the approach to sentencing offenders who suffer from autism or other mental health conditions or disorders, in the absence of a specific guideline.

The Court held that mental health conditions and disorders may be relevant to sentencing in a number of ways. First, they may be relevant to the assessment of the offender’s culpability in committing the crime in question.

Secondly, the offender’s mental health at the time of sentence may be relevant to the decision about the type of sentence imposed, although mental health conditions and disorders can only be taken into account in a limited way so far as the impact of custody is concerned.

Thirdly, mental health conditions and disorders may be relevant to an assessment of whether the offender is dangerous for the purposes of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Fourthly, they may need to be taken into account in ensuring that the effect of the court’s sentence is clearly understood by the offender and in ensuring that the requirements of a community order or an ancillary order are capable of being fulfilled by the offender.

In all of the three cases, the sentences were reduced significantly. It was held that the original sentences had not properly considered both the effect and implication of each offenders’ mental health or disorders.

The judgment is available here.