The New Sentencing Code – what is it?


The new Sentencing Code, which applies to all newly convicted defendants, has now come into force commencing on 1 December 2020.

The “clean sweep” sets out sentencing law in a simpler, more accessible format that will allow non-lawyers to better understand the procedure behind sentencing. It is speculated that the legislation will long remain the primary source of procedural law on sentencing.

The new Code consolidates around 1300 pages of old law, some of which date back as far as the 14th Century, and so this change will abolish the use of outdated statutes. This will have the effect of making the law easier to navigate, ensuring that justice is better served.

Evidence of the simplicity of the law can be found by looking at the new code. The code cross-references the law extremely efficiently allowing for sentencing options to be simply laid out in tabular fashion. Clear references to definitions and tests are made that must be applied by Judges in cases. The law therefore makes precisely clear the different types of sentences that can be used by the Court in a given case.

This is incredibly important considering that the Court has historically been culpable of passing down unlawful sentences. In a sample of 262 cases taken from the Court of Appeal in 2012, 36% involved unlawful sentences which the court should not have made. The Law Commission believe that up to £256 million will be saved in the next decade by avoiding the need for these appeals, which in turn will also have the effect of reducing delays in sentencing. It is therefore expected that the new legislation will aid in reducing the ever growing back log in the Criminal Courts which urgently needs addressing, and perhaps will give a much-needed boost of confidence into the criminal justice system.

At Rosewood Solicitors, ensuring a fair and just outcome is our priority. We represent clients concerning a large variety of offences at sentencing hearings. Therefore, we welcome this new change, which provides a much more accessible and codified understanding of sentencing. Should you need advice on a criminal matter please do not hesitate to contact our Criminal Defence Team on 01483 901414 to book your free consultation.