New assault guideline

sentencing guidelines

The Sentencing Council has published a new guideline for assault offences.

It applies to both magistrates’ and Crown courts, and covers the most frequently sentenced of these offences — inflicting grievous bodily harm, actual bodily harm, assault with intent to resist arrest, assault on a police constable and common assault.


The Council said it hopes the guideline will increase consistency in sentencing.

The guideline introduces starting points which apply to all offenders, instead of assuming that it is dealing with first-time offenders pleading not guilty. The experience of judges is that the majority of offenders appearing before them are not first-time offenders.

It addresses concerns that the previous guideline gave too much emphasis to describing specific offence scenarios, particularly premeditated assaults. The new guideline focuses on the statutory principles of harm and culpability, and the Council believes this will make it more readily applicable to the range of cases which come before courts. 

Nearly 400 professionals, members of the public and organisations responded to the consultation for the guideline, and a number of amendments were made.
Lord Leveson, chairman of the Council, said: “The high level and quality of that response has provided insight into a number of issues and, as a result, we have a definitive guideline which we believe will be more useful and more effective. We hope there will be a similar response to future consultations.”

The new guideline will be used in courts from mid-June, following a three- month training and communication process. It can be viewed on:
www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk.
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