The Sentencing Council for England and Wales was set up to promote greater transparency and consistency in sentencing, while maintaining the independence of the judiciary.
Created by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, it was launched in April 2010, replacing its predecessors the Sentencing Guidelines Council and the Sentencing Advisory Panel.
The Sentencing Council aims to encourage a clear, fair and consistent approach to sentencing offenders wherever their case is heard. It also has a statutory obligation to collect new and substantial evidence on how sentencing guidelines are used and their impact on resources. In addition, it aims to provide clear information on how judges make sentencing decisions so that people feel more confident about sentencing.
The Council has responsibility for:
- developing sentencing guidelines and monitoring their use;
- assessing the impact of guidelines on sentencing practice. It may also be required to consider the impact of policy and legislative proposals relating to sentencing, when requested by the Government; and
- promoting awareness amongst the public regarding the realities of sentencing and publishing information regarding sentencing practice in Magistrates’ and Crown courts.
It must also consider the impact of sentencing decisions on victims, monitor the application of the guidelines (the better to predict the effect of them) and play a greater part in promoting understanding of, and increasing public confidence in, sentencing and the criminal justice system.
The work of the Council is currently focusing on revising the guidelines on assault and guilty pleas and developing guidelines on the totality of sentences and drugs offences.
The Sentencing Council’s ambitious programme of work brings together 14 council members appointed by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice.
As well as the Chairman, Lord Justice Leveson, a Court of Appeal judge, the Council comprises seven other judges from both the Crown and Magistrates’ courts.
The Council also has six non-judicial members who bring expertise from a variety of parts of the criminal justice system.
- the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police
- the Chief Executive of Citizens Advice
- a Professor of Criminology
- the Director of Public Prosecutions
- the Chief Officer for Greater Manchester Probation Area, and
- a consultant solicitor.