On 24th January 2017 new sentencing guidelines were published which will be utilised by all Magistrates Courts in England and Wales. One of the most significant things within the new guidelines will be the increase in the powers that the Magistrates have to fine Defendants who have been convicted. Prior to 24th January 2017, the Magistrates could only fine up to a cap of £5,000.00 per offence. From 24th April 2017, they will be given the power to impose unlimited fines per offence.
As a result of the new guidelines, a more thorough and sophisticated approach will be taken to sentencing. Magistrates will be able to assess the seriousness of the offence. They will be looking at the culpability of the offender and the harm the offender has caused. This will apply to all offences and help ensure that there is a consistent approach across the board. The aim of the guidelines is to assist Magistrates in imposing a fair and proportionate sentence. They will be provided with clear up-to-date guidelines that follow the same approach.
In relation to speeding offences, the Sentencing Guidelines Council is introducing a higher penalty for the most serious offender. This follows lobbying during the consultation. It was pointed out that the previous guidelines did not take into account the increase in potential harm that can result in above the speed limit increases. Therefore, the Sentencing Guidelines Council has increased the penalty for the top band of seriousness. This will result in fines for offenders starting at 150% of their weekly income rather than the existing 100% of their weekly income.
The guidelines will be used to sentence adult offenders in all Magistrates Courts in England and Wales from 24th April 2017. They can be accessed on the Sentencing Council’s website.