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Frequently asked questions

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Sentencing general - adult

What is sentencing for?

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 sets out five purposes of sentencing. These are the:

  • punishment of offenders
  • reduction of crime (including its reduction by deterrence)
  • reform and rehabilitation of offenders
  • protection of the public
  • making of reparation by offenders to people affected by their offences 

When dealing with an offender aged 18 or over the court must have regard to these purposes of sentencing.

For more information go to Sentencing basics.

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What are the different types of sentences?

There are four main types of sentence:

  • discharges
  • fines
  • community sentences
  • custodial sentences

For more information go to Types of sentences.

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How are sentences decided?

In relation to sentencing, legislation sets out the:

  • types of sentence available to a court and when they may be imposed
  • maximum (and in some cases minimum) sentences for each offence
  • matters the court should take into account when sentencing

The judge or magistrate has discretion as to the sentence they impose. However, there are certain factors that must be taken into account including:

  • the type of crime committed and its seriousness
  • if the offender has admitted their guilt
  • any previous convictions
  • the offender’s circumstances
  • the law and any relevant sentencing guidelines

The seriousness of an offence is determined by looking at the:

  • harm caused or intended to be caused
  • culpability of the offender 

The sentence imposed will depend on the facts of the case.

For more information go to How sentences are worked out.

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