Home / Insights / Blog / Overly Complex Sentencing Rules Are to be Overhauled

Overly Complex Sentencing Rules Are to be Overhauled

Overly Complex Sentencing Rules Are to be Overhauled

UK Legal System

The Law Commission has unveiled a proposed overhaul of the judicial system and a revision of what it describes as overwhelmingly complex” legislation on sentencing.

The commission, the body which advises the Government on law in England and Wales, said justice is currently reliant on a “proliferation” of laws that dates back to the 14th century.

The commission’s consultation paper said:

“The current state of the law means that it is simply impossible to describe the governing sentencing procedure as clear, transparent, accessible or coherent . . . This is not only undesirable in principle, but also has negative effects in practice, resulting in unnecessary errors and delays, all of which are costly.”

It says that sentencing law must be accessible for judges, for potential offenders in order that they can understand the consequences of their actions, and the public at large.

New sentencing orders had been introduced with great regularity in recent decades, leaving “no clear and logical structure” to be relied upon by the courts, and heightening the risk of unlawful sentences, the commission said.

‘People must get the justice they deserve’

Law Commissioner Professor David Ormerod QC said:

“People want and expect clarity and transparency when the courts sentence offenders, but judges’ face an increasingly difficult task when doing so. Our changes will make sentencing simpler, by getting rid of the need to dust off decades’ old law, cut court waiting times and help make sure people get the justice they deserve”.

The Law Commission said its consultation on the simplification of sentencing will not affect the current limits on punishments for different criminal offences.

It hopes the proposed overhaul of sentencing legislation will help prevent the handing down of unlawful sentences by providing a single point of reference and doing away with historic legislation, while redrafting the law in modern terminology.

Proposed reform will increase the transparency of sentencing

Lord Justice Treacy, the chairman of the Sentencing Council, which advocates greater consistency in sentencing, said the Law Commission’s proposed reform of sentencing “will help improve not only the work of the courts, but will increase the transparency of sentencing and therefore people’s understanding of how it works.”

Francis FitzGibbon QC and Angela Rafferty QC, the chair and vice-chair of the Criminal Bar Association, added that the proposals are an “extremely important” consultation.

The Law Commission also says a new Sentencing Code would held stop unlawful sentences and save up to £255m over the next decade by avoiding unnecessary appeals and reducing delays.

Punishment revision scheme hailed a success

Nearly 150 offenders were given longer jail terms in the past year after victims complained about sentences under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme. Attorney General Jeremy Wright hailed the success of the scheme which saw some found guilty of crimes as serious as arson and child neglect jailed after originally being given community sentences.

The scheme will now be extended to include 19 terror-related offences including supporting extremist organisations, encouraging acts of terror or failing to disclose information about a terrorist attack.

Mr Wright said: “The Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme allows victims of crime, their families and the public to challenge sentences that they believe are too low, and last year we saw a record number of sentences increased.”

He added: “A sentencing exercise is not an exact science and, in the vast majority of cases, judges get it right. The scheme is available to ensure that the solicitor general and I can independently review those cases where there may have been an error in the sentencing decision.”

Only one person needs to ask for a sentence to be reviewed, and anyone – not just the victim – can request it.

Criminal Defence

We have one of the leading teams of defence solicitors in West London and the South East. If you are facing a serious criminal charge, you can contact a member of the IBB’s Criminal Defence team in complete confidence on 0330 999 4999 for immediate emergency representation. You can also contact us free via Whatsapp on 07899 953415 or Blackberry messenger: PIN 287DA137. Alternatively please email criminaldefence@ibblaw.co.uk.