New guidelines for sentencing common assault and attempted murder

Written 2nd June 2021 by Hannah Poole

As of July 1st 2021, new sentencing guidelines in relation to assault offences including attempted murder and common assault will become effective, after a strong consensus in favour of supporting the need to review these guidelines.

Attempted Murder

The guidelines trusted for attempted murder, the most serious form of non-fatal assault are just one of the many offence sentencing procedures which have been revised. The revision for this offence includes a new sentence range up to 40 years, with a purpose to ensuring that the sentence imposed reflects the gravity of the committed offence.

Following the consultation, clear concerns had been raised that certain sentences in accordance with the current guidelines for attempted murder were in fact too low and substantially lower than a same facts murder offence, even if the intention had been to cause death to the victim.

The guidelines do not increase sentences to the level of murder sentences which draw mandatory life rulings. While these determinate sentences are high, it reflects that the culpability in attempted murder is of the highest level, in some cases even higher than required for offences of murder. Retaining the existing approach when it comes to assessing the seriousness of the offence is still to be considered but the Sentencing Council have decided that planning or lack of, should no longer be the only consideration in assessing an offender’s culpability. Rather, the highest culpability category factors considered should now reflect those factors included in Schedule 21 of murder offences.

Despite the need for this revision, the modification to sentencing has also been met with apprehension in that the judgements enforced may prove to be too closely aligned with sentences for murder. In response, the Sentencing Council, stressed that the revision, for example towards harm categories will constitute offences currently in the highest category of the existing long term and serious harm kind. These will now be distributed between the top and middle harm categories of the existing guideline. This shows consideration to where an offender intends to kill and the victim is left with life changing injuries or perhaps becomes dependent on medical treatment or care as a result. The sentence should therefore be a high level and an appropriate sentence imposed which at length reflects the severity of this offence.

Further review

The consultation also sought views on draft guidelines for the following offences;

  • Common Assault – section 39 Criminal Justice Act 1988; Racially/religiously aggravated Common Assault – section 29 Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
  • Assault with intent to resist arrest – section 38 Offences against the Persons Act 1861.
  • Assault occasioning actual bodily harm – section 47 Offences Against the Persons Act 1861; Racially/religiously aggravated ABH – section 29 Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
  • Inflicting grievous bodily harm/Unlawful wounding – section 20 Offences Against the Persons Act 1861; Racially/religiously aggravated GBH/unlawful wounding – section 29 Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
  • Causing grievous bodily harm with intent to do grievous bodily harm/Wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm – section 18 Offences Against the Persons Act 1861.
  • Common Assault of an emergency worker – section 1 Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) 2018.

The guidelines for assault on emergency workers, will be the first set of sentencing guidelines that Magistrates and Judges will have in England and Wales which will provide tailored guidance when it comes to sentencing these particular offences. Sentencing which now reflects legislation that has increased the maximum sentence for common assault when an emergency worker is the victim.

Sentencing Council member Her Honour Judge Rosa Dean clarified;

“The guidelines will ensure appropriate and proportionate sentences are imposed for these offences that fully recognise the level of harm caused to the victim.”

Desired outcome

The updated guidelines have been shaped for a range of assaults when it comes to sentencing, emphasising how assault and consequently the trauma it brings can lead to real distress for the victim both psychologically and physically. It is therefore imperative the sentence imposed reflects the harm this assault has caused.

These new guidelines which apply to adult offenders will seek to administer consistency in the sentencing approach adopted and assist in creating a balanced assessment on the seriousness of the offence, resulting in appropriate and just sentences.

Olliers Solicitors – specialist criminal defence lawyers

Article written by Hannah Poole. If you are facing an allegation of assault or attempted murder and require specialist advice and representation, please contact Ruth Peters by telephone on 0161 834 1515, by email to or complete the form below.

Hannah Poole

Hannah Poole



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