New Sentencing Guidelines – Are they needed?

SMQ Legal Solicitors are vigilant of new legal developments and sentencing proposals. It is important to also be aware of new considerations for sentence lengths to be able to help our clients.

A white paper ‘A Smarter Approach to Sentencing’  introduced to Parliament on 16th September 2020 by Robert Buckland (Lord Chancellor and secretary of state for Justice) promises longer sentences for serious offenders. This would include those that are imprisoned for violent and sexual offences. Currently, under the operation of the law, such offenders leave prison halfway through their sentence. The white paper also proposes that those who may be radicalised or more dangerous whilst in prison, face a more rigorous Parole Board process, that will ensure that those who are eligible for automatic release, are no longer a danger to the public.

Breaking the cycle of crime is always a concern of the government. And the current climate of opinion is that the current system of ‘short and frequent’ prison terms is woefully ineffective at rehabilitating individuals who are often caught in a cycle of offending, substance abuse, poor mental health, and learning difficulties. Clearly the system cannot be one size fits all and it is important that rehabilitation is central to the justice system.

It is proposed that there will be a recruitment drive for new Probation Officers and there will be twelve new probation regions to allow greater flexibility for Probation subjects. The paper also contains measures to reduce reoffending by making it easier for offenders to get jobs by reducing the period after which some sentences can be considered spent for the purposes of criminal records checks for non-sensitive roles.

It is also proposed that the criteria for passing a sentence below the minimum term for repeat offences will be changed, as it is too often that offenders are being given lenient sentences for repeat offences.

Concerns have been raised about how these changes will affect the already over-crowded prison system, and whether some dangerous offenders will slip through the net if courts are more likely to give out community orders for minor offences. Criticism could also be drawn over whether the Parole Board have the capacity to have enough evidence to make an empirical judgement on an offenders rehabilitation, as well as the effectiveness of community Orders at effecting a change in lifestyle for an offender.

We see a lot of ineffective probation reports and serving client without defined sentence plans to help them progress whilst in prison so we hope an increase in probation support and resources for the probation services will help solve this problem.

SMQ Legal is a local Oxford based firm and we wish to support out community.  We are supporters of a Charity called Hope and Vision who are setting up to help offenders, who please guilty, get the necessary support once they leave prison to prevent re-offending. Please take a look at their great works –


Article by Jennifer Arkell



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