England: Senior judges back simplification of sentencing code

Sir Brian Leveson

Senior judges have lent their support to a proposed simplification and rationalisation of the sentencing code, The Brief reports.

Last year saw more than 1.2 million offenders sentenced across England and Wales, where sentencing laws comprise some 1,300 pages which judges must navigate before handing out punishment.

The Law Commission is proposing that the sentencing code be rationalised, a move Sir Brian Leveson, President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court (pictured) and the Council of Circuit Judges support.

Sir Brian said he was “extremely concerned by the complexity and confusing nature of our current sentencing legislation”.

The complexity of the law in this area also creates delays and partly account for an average waiting time from charge to final disposal of 55 days in the magistrates’ courts and a substantially longer period of eight months at Crown Court level.

Sir Brian said that “no one who has recent experience in the criminal courts, whether as a judge, practitioner or as an interested observer, can fail to be extremely concerned by the complexity and confusing nature of our current sentencing legislation.

“The impact is tangible: far too much time is spent on what should be straightforward and this adds to delay, costs and generates unnecessary appeals. It undeniably adds to the cost of criminal justice generally”.

David Ormerod QC, the commissioner leading the project, said: “People want and expect clarity and transparency when the courts sentence offenders, but judges face an increasingly difficult task when doing so.

“Finding the right sentence is needlessly difficult even for experienced practitioners. Our changes will make sentencing simpler by getting rid of the need to dust off decades’ old law, cut court waiting times and help make sure people get the justice they deserve.”


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