The Sentencing Council has proposed changes to the guidance given to judges on sentencing people for assault.

In a consultation paper published today, it proposes that those convicted of assault should be sentenced based on the harm caused to the victim and their culpability, rather than the current method, which is based on a description of the offence.

Currently, three of the four categories of assault occasioning actual bodily harm include premeditated assault with different levels of injury. The council says that the experience of judges is that many assaults are spontaneous – such as drunken violence in the street – and do not easily fit into these categories.

The changes are designed to ensure a consistent approach to sentencing and make it more easily understood by the public.

This is the first guidance to be revised by the Sentencing Council since it replaced its predecessor body, the Sentencing Guidance Council, in April 2010.

Sentencing Council chairman Lord Justice Leveson said: ‘Our revisions set out a proposed guideline that means any offence of assault can be met with a proportionate sentence based on a consistent framework. This will make it easily applied by judges and readily understood both by victims and the public.’

He added: ‘We would like to hear from victims and any member of the public, as well as from judges, lawyers and others in the criminal justice system. We want to make sure that both the structure and the content of what will be our first guideline is informed by the views of everyone who has an interest in sentencing.’

The 12-week consultation on the guidelines ends on 5 January 2011.