The Commission welcomes the opportunity to comment on the content, structure and format of revised guidelines on the decision making process for sentencing in cases of assault. The Commission responded directly to the questions within the consultation document; making recommendations and highlighting useful sources of guidance and evidence. The main points of our response include:
- An expectation for the Sentencing Council to conduct a full equality impact assessment on the draft guidelines
- We state that offences motivated by, or demonstrating, hostility to the victim based on their transgender status (or presumed transgender status) is added to the non-statutory factors indicating higher culpability at step one of the decision making process in order to:
- promote consistency in sentencing across the protected grounds covered by the new public sector equality duty;
- increase the satisfaction of victims of transgender hate crime and the confidence of transgender people in the criminal justice system;
- reduce crime against transgender people by deterrence
- We highlight concern about inappropriate consideration of the vulnerability of victims in hate crime cases and suggest that the Sentencing Council produces further guidance and training for judges and magistrates on the consideration of vulnerability and hostility.
- We agree that the guidelines should take mental health conditions in consideration as a factor indicating lower culpability at step one of the sentencing decision making process. We highlight the importance of identifying the mental health conditions of victims, witnesses and defendants at their first contact with criminal justice agencies, well in advance of the sentencing stage.
- We agree that the guidelines should permit the court to take a lack of maturity into account and provide reasons for this view.
- We suggest that the consideration of victims’ impact statements is an additional way of allowing the court to take into account consideration the impact of hate crime on victims and highlight concern at the low levels of use of these in the court process.
- We highlight concerns about the accessibility of the consultation document and the proposed sentencing process and suggest potential mitigating steps.
- We state that the provision of information alone will have a limited effect in improving public confidence in sentencing and suggest other action that could help achieve this.
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