The Sentencing Council has published a new Overarching Principles: Domestic Abuse sentencing guideline, replacing the 2006 Sentencing Guidelines Council domestic violence guideline. It brings a distinct change in emphasis in relation to seriousness. The previous guideline stated that offences committed in a domestic context should be seen as no less serious than those in a non-domestic context, whereas the new guideline emphasises that the fact an offence took place in a domestic context makes it more serious. This is because domestic abuse is rarely a one-off incident, it is likely to become increasingly frequent and more serious the longer it continues, and may result in death. It can also lead to lasting trauma for victims and their children.
For the first time, the guideline also includes a reference to abuse which is perpetrated through use of technology, such as email or text, social networking sites and GPS trackers, since these are increasingly common methods by which domestic abuse can occur. It also provides additional guidance on restraining orders and Victim Personal Statements.
The guideline recognises that these offences can affect people of all backgrounds and is also clear that abuse can occur between family members as well as between intimate partners.
The guideline will apply to all offenders aged 16 and older sentenced on or after 24 May 2018 (for offenders aged 16-18 courts should also refer to the Sentencing Children and Young People Overarching Principles Definitive Guideline). The new guideline can be accessed on the Council's website.