Proposed new sentencing guidelines for financial crimes published last week encompass bribery and money laundering for the first time, while setting out to prioritise the impact of crime on the victim.
The guidelines, which will replace existing guidance published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council in 2009, also cover the sentencing of corporate offenders, as well as conspiracy offences, including conspiracy to defraud. They will also aid prosecutors when deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) are introduced early next year.
In an effort to make sentencing clearer and more consistent, the Sentencing Council is seeking views on the principal factors that make any of the offences more or less serious; additional factors that should influence the sentence; the structure of the guidelines; and the sentences that should be passed.
The new guidelines will mean higher sentences for some offenders, particularly where the financial loss is relatively small but the impact on the victim is high.
Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said: ‘Fraud is committed for financial gain, but it can mean much more than financial loss to the victim. Our research with victims showed the great impact it can have on them. They can suffer panic, stress, self-blame and shame, and some people even become suicidal.
‘The first step in our proposed guidelines therefore looks at what the victim has been through.’
More than 16,000 people were sentenced for fraud in 2011. The guidelines cover the multiple varieties of fraud offences that target businesses, public money, charities and individuals.
The 14-week consultation on the proposals runs until 4 October.