30 June 2023

On 1 July 2023, a number of new and revised guidelines from the Sentencing Council will come into effect.


Two sentencing guidelines for sentencing offenders convicted of animal cruelty offences to reflect changes introduced by Parliament in the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021, come into effect on 1 July 2023.

The first guideline – Animal cruelty – is new and covers the most serious offences, for example causing unnecessary suffering, tail docking and animal fighting. It reflects the increase in maximum penalties for such offences from six months’ to five years’ custody. Because of the higher penalties, these most serious offences are now eligible to be tried in both magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court.

The second guideline – Failure to ensure animal welfare – is a revision of the Council’s existing guideline for animal cruelty offences. The guideline has been updated to ensure it is specific to the circumstances of offending likely to fall under section 9 of the Act. There has been no increase in penalty so the guideline will continue to apply to magistrates’ courts only.


The revised Totality guideline will also come into effect. The Council has revised the guideline to:

  • · make it easier to use and navigate, while retaining the existing level of detail give greater prominence to guidance on how the courts can structure the sentence to achieve a just and proportionate outcome
  • · bring the guideline up to date to reflect changes in case law
  • · add an explanation of how to approach sentencing offences committed before other offences for which an offender has already been sentenced
  • · provide more examples showing how the guideline might apply to certain situations, and
  • · prompt courts to explain how the sentence is structured for the benefit of offenders, victims and the general public


The guidelines include updated versions of six current guidelines – published in 2008 – and reflect new maximum sentences for some of the offences, including causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The six guidelines have been updated in line with the current, step-by-step format of sentencing guidelines now used by the courts. They are among the final set of sentencing guidelines published by the former Sentencing Guidelines Council to be updated by the Sentencing Council.

The Council also published five new guidelines for new offences created since the current guidelines were published. They include causing serious injury by dangerous driving, which has a proposed sentence range of up to five years’ custody, and causing serious injury by driving while disqualified, which has a proposed sentence range of up to four years’ custody.

There is also a new guideline to bring consistency to sentencing offenders convicted of causing injury by wanton or furious driving where a motorist causes injury or death off-road such as in a field or dirt track, or where a cyclist causes death or injury at any location, with a proposed sentence range of up to two years’ custody.