7 The law of sentencing applies to over a million individual cases every year but is currently complex and disparate. The complexity of the current law leads to a disproportionate number of errors and unlawful sentences being imposed, resulting in delays, an unnecessary number of appeals, and an inefficient use of public money.
8 The coalition government agreed in 2014 that the Law Commission should undertake a project to consolidate the law relating to sentencing procedure. The Sentencing Code project is part of the Law Commission’s 12th programme of law reform.
9 In November 2018, the Law Commission published a concluding report of the project 1 alongside a draft Sentencing (Pre-consolidation Amendments) Bill and a draft Sentencing Code Bill. 2
10 The aim of the Code is to set out the relevant sentencing provisions in a clear, simple and logical way, to provide the courts with a single point of reference for procedural provisions, which a court would need to rely upon during the sentencing process, and to allow for all updates to sentencing procedure to be made in a single place. Once enacted, the Code will bring clarity to the law, reducing errors and delays.
11 The Sentencing Code project has been subject to four formal public consultations (conducted by the Law Commission), including a consultation on the transitions from the current law to the Code (also known as the "clean sweep issues" paper) 3 and a consultation on the draft Code, which included the substantive clauses of the Bill. 4 The provisions in the Code relating to the disposals available for children and young persons were subject to a separate consultation. 5 As with the main consultation, this included an appendix with a description of every pre-consolidation amendment made in relation to those provisions and the reason for making them.
12 The Bill has two main objectives: (1) to remove historic layers of sentencing legislation and give effect to the clean sweep; and (2) to make changes to the existing law of sentencing procedure in order to enable the consolidation in the Code to take place. The first, to remove historic layers of legislation, will have the effect of repealing partially saved provisions concerning sentencing procedure which are no longer needed, thereby simplifying the law, and allowing for a single set of provisions to govern the sentencing process for offenders convicted after commencement of the Code, even where the offences were committed before its commencement. The second will also provide the Secretary of State with the power to make further pre-consolidation amendments to the law to enable the consolidation (i.e. the Code) to proceed. Such changes are a standard measure which precedes consolidation Bills. As a consolidation must operate on the current law, it is necessary to make certain changes to allow the consolidation to happen - for example, changing language to avoid inconsistency, correcting error or updating existing statutory references.
13 The Bill contains provisions which will enable the consolidation of sentencing law under the Code. Once the Sentencing Code Bill is commenced the Bill will have served its purpose and will largely be repealed.