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General Principles of Sentencing

Upon conviction a defendant will be sentenced by the crown court or magistrates court after pleading guilty or being found guilty after trial. You may well have to advice the client as to likely sentence he would face upon conviction, represent him in a sentencing hearing or advise about a successful appeal against trial. The magistrates and crown court can pass a wide range of sentences including custody, community sentence, fine or a discharge. The purpose of sentencing is to reduce crime, rehabilitate the offender or protect the public.

The sentence the court metes out will be based on the seriousness of the offence defined by the defendant's culpability in committing the offence and the risk of harm caused- s 143 CJA 2003. Before advising your client you must therefore assess the seriousness of the offence by balancing aggravating and mitigating factors. The courts assessment of the seriousness of the offence will determine which of the sentencing thresholds has been crossed and indicate which type of sentence is most appropriate. Aggravating factors will include an offence committed whilst on bail, previous offending, religious or racial aggravation or sexual orientation or disability of the victim.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 Sentencing Guidelines is the authoritative guidelines on sentencing to be applied by the courts. The Magistrates Courts Sentencing Guidelines is the authority that must be applied by all magistrates' courts.

Pre sentence report:  this is prepared by the probation officer after interviewing the offender and considering relevant information including the advanced information. The report should be an analysis of the offence and the offenders' culpability. It would include the offenders' personal history, previous convictions education, employment and health.  Of particular importance is the probation officers view of the offenders' risk of reoffending based on the current offence and his attitude to it. Finally the report will usually indicate a proposal in regards to sentence.


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