Introduction of the ‘Sentencing Code’

The Sentencing Bill (2019-2021) received Royal Assent on 22 October 2020. All provisions will be commenced on 1 December 2020.

The Sentencing Act 2020 creates the new Sentencing Code, which is intended to provide a clear and logical structure to the sentencing procedural law, updating the language used and bringing the many provisions into one single piece of legislation. The Act is a consolidation of existing procedural legislation, with a number of pre-consolidation amendments made to enable the consolidation to occur. In addition, there are streamlining changes and other improvements that generally update and improve the law without making substantive legal or policy changes. One such change is the ‘clean sweep’ which removes historic layers of procedural legislation by the repeal of complex and overlapping transitional The Ministry of Justice say that this change will remove the need to refer to historic versions of the legislation, making complex sentencing laws more accessible for the public, judiciary and practitioners.

[Access to the GOV.UK press release available here, Law Commission report here, and the Act here]


Sentencing Council guideline for sentencing offenders with mental disorders comes into force.

The new guideline for sentencing offenders with mental disorders comes into effect on 1 October 2020.

Overarching principles: Sentencing offenders with mental disorders, developmental disorders, or neurological impairments is designed to provide judges and magistrates with clarity and transparency and the guideline applies to adults who at the time of the offence and/or at the time of sentencing have:

  • mental disorders – conditions such as schizophrenia, depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • developmental disorders – autism or learning disability, or
  • neurological impairments – acquired brain injury (ABI) or dementia.

[Full press release here]


Updates to the Magistrates’ Courts Sentencing Guidelines come into force.

The changes to the Magistrates’ Courts Sentencing Guidelines are now in force from 1 October. The guidelines apply to all magistrates’ courts in England and Wales, with the changes to the Breach of a community order guideline and Totality guideline also applying in the Crown Court.

Updates apply to the following guidelines:

There are also some updates to explanatory materials for the surcharge, high income offenders and ‘totting up’ disqualifications.

[Full press release here]