The Sentencing Council is providing a new tool to support the process of sentencing in the Crown Court. SentencingACE allows judges to make a quick, ready-reckoner style check of the sentence they intend to impose. It provides a convenient alternative to checking through the reference books to confirm that all elements of an intended sentence – relating to the offence, the offender and the type and level of penalty – are correct in law.
SentencingACE will also provide a reference source for defence and prosecution practitioners, allowing them to make sure they address the court on all matters relevant to sentencing and avoid making technical sentencing errors in their submissions.
SentencingACE – which stands for “avoidance of common errors” – was conceived by a High Court judge and tested by Crown Court judges. It already covers more than 800 offences, including those most commonly sentenced, and will in time include the vast majority of indictable offences and those summary offences most likely to be sentenced in the Crown Court. The judge-led team developing the tool has made every effort to ensure that the information it holds is accurate, and the Council will continue to refine the content and keep it up to date. But it cannot be guaranteed to be 100 per cent accurate, and each judge continues to bear the responsibility for making sure that any sentence imposed is correct in law.
Available via the Sentencing Council website from 16 December, SentencingACE is designed to provide support to sentencers and practitioners in combination with offence-specific and overarching sentencing guidelines, the Crown Court Compendium and the Sentencing Code but, unlike the need for judges to comply with sentencing guidelines, its use is entirely voluntary.
Launching SentencingACE, Lord Justice Holroyde, Chairman of the Sentencing Council, said:
“Sentencing is a complex procedure, and sentencers must bear in mind a great many matters. SentencingACE will allow Crown Court judges to confirm quickly and easily that the sentence they have decided upon is lawful in all respects.
“SentencingACE should reduce the number of appeals that stem from technical sentencing errors. And, by allowing the Court of Appeal to deal more efficiently with other, more complex cases, this new tool will help to improve public confidence in the criminal justice system.”
1. The Sentencing Council for England and Wales was set up in April 2010 to promote greater transparency and consistency in sentencing, while maintaining the independence of the judiciary. The primary role of the Council is to issue guidelines on sentencing, which the courts must follow unless it is in the interests of justice not to do so.
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