Overarching Sentencing Guideline

Annex One: General Principles Guideline


When sentencing offences for which there is no offence specific sentencing guideline these general principles should be applied.

Stages Two and Three – Determining the offence category and starting point

Throughout the sentencing process sentencers should consider which of the five purposes of sentencing (below) they are seeking to achieve through the sentence that is imposed. More than one purpose might be relevant and the importance of each must be weighed against the particular offence and offender characteristics when determining sentence.

  • The punishment of offenders
  • The reduction of crime (including its reduction by deterrence)
  • The reform and rehabilitation of offenders
  • The protection of the public
  • The making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by their offences

Where there is no definitive sentencing guideline for the offence, to determine the starting point and complete stages one, two and three of the stages of sentencing, sentencers should take account of all of the following (if they apply):

  • the statutory maximum sentence for the offence;
  • relevant case law; and
  • definitive sentencing guidelines for analogous offences.

For the avoidance of doubt sentencers should not take account of any draft sentencing guidelines.

When considering definitive guidelines for analogous offences sentencers must apply these carefully, making adjustments for any differences in the statutory maximum sentence and in the elements of the offence. This will not be a merely arithmetical exercise.

The seriousness of the offence is assessed by considering the culpability of the offender and the harm caused by the offending.  The initial assessment of harm and culpability should take no account of plea or previous convictions.

Stage Four – Aggravating and mitigating factors

Once the starting point has been determined sentencers should take into account factors that may make the offence more serious and factors which may reduce seriousness or reflect personal mitigation.

Sentencers should identify whether a combination of these or other relevant factors should result in any upward or downward adjustment from the starting point.

It is for the sentencer to determine how much weight should be assigned to the aggravating and mitigating factors taking into account all of the circumstances of the offence and the offender.  Not all factors that apply will necessarily influence the sentence.



Stage Five – Reduction for guilty pleas

Sentencers should take account of any potential reduction for a guilty plea in accordance with this guideline.

Stage Six – Reduction in sentence – bail conditions (curfew)

The court should consider whether to give credit for time spent on bail with a curfew condition.

Stage Seven – Consider totality

If sentencing an offender for more than one offence, or where the offender is already serving a sentence, sentencers should consider whether the total sentence is just and proportionate to the overall offending behaviour in accordance with this guideline.

Stage Eight – Consider ancillary orders

In all cases sentencers should consider whether to make compensation and/or other ancillary orders.

Stage Nine – Reasons

Sentencers should give reasons for, and explain the effect of, the sentence and any ancillary orders.


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Examples Relating To Totality



14. Annex One: General Principles Guideline
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