The Sentencing Council wants to teach school children about sentencing so they feel more confident about the criminal justice system.
The council says in its 2019/20 annual report, published yesterday, that it wants to reach young people after research showed that young people are less likely than any other age group to know about sentencing guidelines.
To mitigate this lack of knowledge, the council says it has identified secondary school pupils as a 'priority audience'.
The report says: ‘Our aim is to equip them with a knowledge and understanding of sentencing that will improve their confidence in the criminal justice system, whether they encounter it as victims, witnesses or defendants, and enable them to become critical readers of the media’s reporting of sentencing.’
The council has developed a teaching pack for schools as part of the citizenship curriculum for key stage 3 and 4 pupils. It also developed materials to be included in the Bar Mock Trial competition run by Young Citizens, an education charity. The finals of the competition were due to take place on 11 March at the Old Bailey but was postponed because of Covid-19.
During 2019/20, the council had 148 mentions in the print media, 646 broadcast mentions and 342 mentions online (excluding social media). Traffic to its website was high, with 1.35 million unique visitors, compared to 978,212 the previous year.
Draft guidelines on driving and terrorism offences received a significant amount of media coverage.
The council, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, began consulting in March on where it should focus its efforts in the next decade and how it should balance its priorities.
The report says: ‘There is a vast amount of work that we could do, and there will be difficult decisions to make about what can be achieved within the council’s resources.’
The council’s resources are made available through the Ministry of Justice and the total funding allocation for 2019/2020 was £1.46m.