Law Commission to codify sentencing procedure

On 26 January we launched our work on codifying the entire law relating to sentencing procedure.

The law on sentencing affects all criminal cases, and is applied in hundreds of thousands of trials and thousands of appeals each year. Currently, the law lacks coherence and clarity: it is spread across many statutes, and frequent updates are brought into force at different times by different statutory instruments and have a variety of transitional arrangements.

This makes it difficult, if not impossible at times, for practitioners and the courts to understand what the present law of sentencing procedure actually is. This can lead to delays, costly appeals and unlawful sentences.

Our aim in this project is to introduce a single sentencing statute that will act as the first and only port of call for sentencing tribunals. It will set out the relevant provisions in a clear and logical way, and ensure that all updates to sentencing procedure can be found in a single place. It is not the aim of this project to interfere with mandatory minimum sentences or with sentencing tariffs in general. Those will remain entirely untouched, but the process by which they come to be imposed will be streamlined and much improved.

At this early stage of the project, we are asking practitioners and judges for further examples of the problems that can arise as a result of flaws within the existing system. We would like to hear about particular instances or types of situation where the current process is adversely affected by the structure, complexity, drafting or volume of legislation.