Magistrates unable to turn to Court of Appeal judgments for sentencing help could benefit from general guidance designed to capture 'rarely seen' offences such as blackmail and perverting the course of justice.
The Sentencing Council has produced specific guidelines for most high-volume criminal offences. However, many offences are not covered by specific guidance, such as blackmail, hacking, immigration, kidnap, modern slavery, perjury, planning and wildlife.
The council says today it is aware of the difficulty faced by courts when sentencing for 'rarely seen' offences, 'and this is particularly the case for offences most commonly sentenced in magistrates' courts where there are no judgments of the Court of Appeal (criminal division) to assist'.
Under the general guidance, aggravating factors for regulatory and some wildlife offences will include commissioning the offence for financial gain and a high level of profit from the offence. The council says organisations have highlighted the need for such guidance to ensure financial penalties are commensurate with the seriousness of the offending and represents an effective deterrent.
Another aggravating factor is failure to respond to warnings or concerns expressed by others, which could apply to an offender who ignores a warning that premises are not compliant with fire regulations or a juror warned not to research a defendant.
Mitigating factors include the lack of planning, involvement through coercion, limited understanding of the offence and little or no financial gain.
The consultation closes on 11 September.