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Guiding light

The new sentencing guidelines are designed to ensure consistency and transparency, and give equal weight to both harm and culpability, argues Rosalind Campion as she rebuffs Jeannie Mackie's criticism

20 June 2011

On 13 June, the new sentencing guidelines for assault offences issued by the Sentencing Council came into force in courts in England and Wales. These definitive guidelines are the first to be issued by the council, which was established last year.

The council had a number of aims in drafting this guideline, including its statutory duties set out in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. One of the key objectives was to create a step-by-step guideline which could be better understood by the public and victims, and at the same time be easily applied by the courts.

The most important steps of the guideline are steps one and two, forming the assessment of seriousness and arriving at a provisional sentence. Harm and culpability are still considered together by the sentencer at step one to make a preliminary assessment of seriousness based on the principal factual elements of the offence rather than by comparison with a descriptive scenario, as under the old guideline. These facto...

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