By David Philpott, 23rd January 2023
The overwhelming majority of criminal cases are dealt with in the Magistrates Court and the Sentencing Council have set out a series of guidelines which must be considered whenever anyone is sentenced. There are specific guidelines for almost all offences and the court must also have regard to the main purposes of sentencing. These purposes include the punishment of offenders, reduction of crime, reform and rehabilitation, protection of the public and the possibility of a person making some reparation for their actions.
Culpability and harm caused
At the outset of any sentence hearing the court must consider the culpability of the person appearing before the court and also the level harm that has been caused to the victim. Culpability is assessed by reference to factors including a person’s intention, their level of involvement, the extent to which their actions were premeditated, and the degree of planning and sophistication. For harm regard will be had to not only the harm that was actually caused but also what was intended and what might have been foreseen in the circumstances.
Aggravating and mitigating matters
The court will then go on to consider any aggravating and mitigating matters. Aggravating factors include previous convictions, whether the person was on bail, the issue of hostility and whether the victim was an emergency worker. Consideration will also be given to matters such as whether or not the offender was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if it was a group action, whether a weapon was used and the vulnerability of the victim. Mitigating factors include whether or not a person has recent or relevant previous convictions, previous good character and remorse. Additionally, consideration should be given to a person’s age and level of maturity, health related issues and caring responsibilities.
There are other factors that the court must take into account before coming to any decision including a reduction in sentence if a person has pleaded guilty to an offence. The earlier in the proceedings such a plea is entered the more credit that should be afforded. Once the court has come to a decision that must then be explained to the person being sentenced and reasons given for the decision.
Olliers experience in the Magistrates Court
Sentencing in the Magistrates Court can be a complex process and if you are to appear in court it is essential that you seek representation as soon as possible. At Olliers we have a vastly experienced team of advocates who represent people in Magistrates Courts across the country. If you would like to speak to us about a court hearing please get in touch with us.