The Sentencing Council for England and Wales was set up to promote greater transparency and consistency in sentencing, whilst maintaining the independence of the judiciary.
The primary role of the Council is to issue guidelines on sentencing which the courts must follow unless it is in the interests of justice not to do so.
The Sentencing Council is an independent, non-departmental public body of the Ministry of Justice and replaced the Sentencing Guidelines Council and the Sentencing Advisory Panel in April 2010.
The Sentencing Council has responsibility for:
- developing sentencing guidelines and monitoring their use;
- assessing the impact of guidelines on sentencing practice. It may also be required to consider the impact of policy and legislative proposals relating to sentencing, when requested by the Government; and
- promoting awareness amongst the public regarding the realities of sentencing and publishing information regarding sentencing practice in Magistrates’ and the Crown Court.
In addition to the functions above, the Council must:
- consider the impact of sentencing decisions on victims;
- monitor the application of the guidelines, better to predict the effect of them; and
- play a greater part in promoting understanding of, and increasing public confidence in, sentencing and the criminal justice system.
Appointments to the Council
All judicial appointments are made by the Lord Chief Justice with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor whilst non-judicial appointments are made by the Lord Chancellor with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice following open competition.
In November 2013 Lord Justice Treacy was appointed Chairman of the Sentencing Council. He replaced the first Chairman, Lord Justice Leveson, who was appointed in November 2009.
To find out more about each member of the Sentencing Council, go to the Council members’ page.
Accountability and governance
The Council is accountable to Parliament for the delivery of its statutory remit set out in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. This Act also provides that the Lord Chancellor may provide the Council with such assistance as it requests in connection with the performance of its functions.
The Council is accountable to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice as accounting officer and to Ministers for the efficient and proper use of public funds delegated to the Council. Ministers are also responsible for protecting the Council’s independence.
The Director General of the Justice Policy Group at the Ministry of Justice is accountable for ensuring that there are effective arrangements for oversight of the Council in its statutory functions and as one of Non- Departmental Public Bodies of the Ministry of Justice.
The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State and the Lord Chief Justice, have a representative at every meeting.
Relationship with Parliament
The Council has a statutory requirement to consult with Parliament. This includes regular appearances before the House of Commons Justice Select Committee. In addition to this, the work of the Sentencing Council has also been open to further scrutiny in the form of a wide ranging sentencing debate in the House of Commons led by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.
The public is regularly consulted about the Council’s work. Once a draft sentencing guideline is produced, the public as well as criminal justice professionals are consulted about it, and their views feed into the final guideline which is issued to judges and magistrates. The Government will also normally respond to the consultations, giving its views on draft guidelines.
There has been a high level of response to the Council’s consultations as it actively promotes them and encourages the public as well as criminal justice professionals to respond. An average of over 300 responses has been received, to each of the eight consultations run.
As well as consultations, the Council conducts research with the public and victims to ensure that the guidelines fully reflect the harm caused to victims by offending.