1.The Sentencing Council for England and Wales is an independent non-departmental body of the Ministry of Justice, set up to promote greater transparency and consistency in sentencing, whilst maintaining the independence of the judiciary. Its primary role is to issue guidelines on sentencing, which the courts must follow unless it is in the interests of justice not to do so. The Council also assesses the impact of guidelines on sentencing practice and promotes public awareness of sentencing practice in the magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court.
2.Under section 120 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, the Council is required to publish sentencing guidelines in draft before they are finalised. Section 120(6) of the 2009 Act lists the Justice Committee as a statutory consultee on draft guidelines. The Council must also consult the Lord Chancellor and any person that the Lord Chancellor directs should be consulted, together with such other persons as the Council considers appropriate. In setting guidelines, the Council is required to have regard to a number of factors, including the sentences imposed by courts in England and Wales for particular offences and the need to promote consistency in sentencing.
3.On 13 June 2017, the Sentencing Council published for consultation a group of sentencing guidelines covering offences involving child cruelty, along with a consultation paper seeking views on the draft guidelines. The Council also published a consultation stage Resource Assessment. The offences covered by the draft guidelines are as follows:
4.The Sentencing Council aimed to seek a wide range of views to its consultation paper and received 42 responses in total. We are grateful to the Council for sharing these responses with us, and for producing a note which helpfully explains the background to the consultation and summarises the responses that the Council received. The Council’s note is reproduced as Appendix 2 to this report. Given the assistance that we received from the Council, we did not consider it necessary for us to seek separate evidence, formally or informally, on the draft guidelines.
5.We responded to the Sentencing Council’s consultation by way of a letter from the Chair, dated 27 March 2018, which was sent to Lord Justice Treacy, the Chairman of the Council. The letter appears as Appendix 1 to this report. Although it was submitted after the consultation deadline, the Council indicated to us that our response could still be considered and we are grateful for its flexibility in this regard. We have decided to publish this short report to draw the attention of the House and that of other interested parties to the draft guidelines on child cruelty offences, and to our own response.
1 Sentencing Council;
2 Sentencing Council; . June 2017
Published: 3 July 2018