Sentencing assaults

The Sentencing Council has published new guidelines for dealing with assault cases in Magistrates' Courts.  The new guidelines are much more comphrensive than the old ones.  Broadly speaking, offences are split into three levels indicating the seriousness of injuries suffered and the culpability of the offender.  The court must then consider any aggravating or mitigating factors before selecting an appropriate starting point for sentence.  The court then must go through various steps that increase or decrease the sentence before arriving at a decision.

Will this increase sentences?  Er... no.

Let us look at assault with intent to resist arrest.  Under the old guidelines there were three levels of seriousness and the starting points went:
  1. Low level community order;
  2. High level community order; and 
  3. Crown Court (which means that the case is too serious for the magistrates to sentence because the sentence exceeds their maximum 6-month imprisonment power).
The new guidelines for the same offence are:
  1. Band B fine;
  2. Mid level community order; and
  3. 26-weeks in prison.
The position with ABH is similar, although these offences are often heard in the Crown Court so these guidelines don't apply.  For ABH, the middle offence sees the starting point rise by 2-weeks in prison to 26-weeks custody while the least serious form of ABH drops from a high level community order to a medium level community order.

Assault on a police constable in the execution of his duty follows a similar drop; this is a summary only offence that can only be heard in the magistrates court.  The old guidelines gave the following starting points:
  1. Low level community order;
  2. High level community order; and
  3. 18-weeks in prison.
The new guidelines are:
  1. Band B fine;
  2. Medium level community order; and
  3. 12-weeks imprisonment.
It may not be entirely fair to compare these starting points side by side because the old guidelines took a slightly different approach to working out the starting point and the new guidelines are far more comphrensive than the old.

Here's a link to the new guidelines and here are the complete Magistrates' Court Sentencing Guidelines as used in courts every day, which is where I took the old starting points from in this post.


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