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How guidelines are used

"Life as a magistrate without sentencing guidelines now seems inconceivable." A magistrate

Sentencing guidelines are applicable in all criminal courts in England and Wales to ensure a consistent approach and transparency in sentencing.

Use of the guidelines

Sentencing guidelines aim to assist judges and magistrates in determining the appropriate sentence for an offence, ensuring that all the relevant factors are taken into account.

In relation to the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines, one magistrate has commented:

“Life as a magistrate without sentencing guidelines now seems inconceivable.  More than anything else they allow everyone in court - including the defendant and his or her solicitor - to see a transparent sentencing process at work. . . The guidelines, with their structured approach to offence seriousness, culpability and harm, [are] invaluable in clarifying the issues.”

Case study

A magistrate describes how they use guidelines:

“[Sentencing Guidelines] are especially useful in cases - and there are many of them - which can become clouded by emotional or surprising details.  For instance, in a trial concerning hugely excessive speed but no damage, we had to decide whether the defendant was guilty of dangerous driving.”

"Sentencing guidelines give me invaluable help in identifying the particular circumstances which make the case I am dealing with more (or less) serious and the range within which my sentence should fall. In this way, my approach to sentencing and the resultant sentences which I pass are likely to be consistent with those passed in other courts in similar cases."