One of the main problems with sentencing in the courts today is the broad nature of the crimes committed, in the legal system of England and Wales criminal offences are very broadly defined and can have widely varying degrees of severity, for example theft could be anything from stealing a chocolate bar from a corner shop, all of the way up to stealing the crown jewels.
It is important that courts across England and Wales are consistent in their approach to sentencing. Sentencing guidelines, which set out a decision-making process for all judges and magistrates to follow, play an essential role in this. The guidelines are created by the Sentencing Council. The Sentencing Council is responsible for preparing and monitoring sentencing guidelines with the aim of ensuring greater consistency in sentencing. Each new guideline is consulted on as part of its development. According to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, when sentencing an offender for an offence committed on or after 6 April 2010, a court must follow any relevant sentencing guidelines, unless it is contrary to the interests of justice to do so.
When sentencing an offender for an offence committed before 6 April 2010, the courts must have regard to any relevant sentencing guidelines. Where no guideline exists, judges refer to important court of appeal judgments to examine how sentences have been reached for similar cases in the past. The Sentencing Council has published multiple new guidelines since it came into existence in March 2010. Some of these are: assault, drugs, burglary.
Sentencing guidelines help judges and magistrates decide the appropriate sentence for a criminal offence. The sentence imposed on an offender should reflect the crime they have committed and be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence. The guidelines provide guidance on factors the court should take into account that may affect the sentence