The MA has welcomed today a new set of guidelines on numerous offences from the Sentencing Council. The guidelines provide the framework around which Justices of the Peace arrive at sentencing decisions which are fair and proportionate.
Changes to the guidelines include greater powers relating to fines, removing the £5,000 cap and permitting unlimited fines. For spending offences, magistrates have the power to introduce higher penalties for the most serious offenders. Other changes include the most serious animal cruelty offences being punishable with prison sentences and for TV licence payment cases conditional discharges have been introduced as a option for low level offending. The specific changes can be found here.
Malcolm Richardson, National Chairman of the MA, commented on the changes by saying: “Sentencing is the most important duty of the magistrates’ courts, undertaken on behalf of society. Magistrates give over two million hours to the criminal justice system each year, and it is essential they have effective guidelines to help them give fair and proportionate sentences. These new guidelines will further help ensure the consistent effectiveness of the magistracy, which is shown by the fact that under one per cent of sentences are currently appealed.”