Tag Archives: guidelines

New Public Order offences sentencing guidelines

On 9 May 2018 the Sentencing Council, which is the body responsible for setting sentencing guidelines in England and Wales, has published proposed new guidelines in respect to public order offences.  The consultation ends on 8 August 2018.

public order offences sentencing guideline consultation

What public order offences are covered?

The guidelines will apply to the following offences, all of which are to be found in the Public Order Act 1986:

  • Riot
  • Violent disorder
  • Affray
  • Threatening or provocation of violence and the racially or religiously aggravated counterpart offences
  • Disorderly behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress and the racially or religiously aggravated counterpart offences
  • Disorderly behaviour causing or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress and the racially or religiously aggravated counterpart offences
  • Offences relating to stirring up racial or religious hatred and hatred based on sexual orientation

When will the new guidelines come in to force?

The proposed guidelines for public order offences are being consulted upon.  As a result it is unlikely that any new guidelines will come into force before the end of this year at the earliest.

However, what we tend to see is that judges look at consultation guidelines, even when they are not supposed to.  Sentences may begin to reflect the new guideline before it is in force.  As a result it makes sense to keep a close eye on sentencing in this area of law.

What are the proposed changes?

These offences can vary greatly in their nature and in their seriousness. For example, affray, which covers the use or threats of violence which would make someone fear for their personal safety, may involve serious or sustained violence or a less serious incident where no one is injured.

The new public order offences guidelines aim to set out a clear approach to sentencing that covers the main factors that should be taken into account in assessing the culpability of the offender and the harm they caused.

For example, an offender with high culpability in the riot guideline may have used petrol bombs or firearms, been a ringleader in instigating violence or have been instrumental in escalating the level of disorder.

The guidelines also aim to encapsulate the wide-ranging harm that is caused by these offences. Individual members of the public may suffer physical injury, fear or distress.  There might be damage to their property.  Business owners may suffer loss of livelihood and damage to their premises.

Public disorder can inflict serious disruption and damage to local communities and police officers and other emergency workers may be attacked and injured. Incidents may also involve substantial costs to the public purse.

The guidelines also highlight other aggravating factors that would increase the seriousness of offences. This can include offenders inciting others to participate in violence, trying to prevent emergency services from carrying out their duties, causing injuries to police dogs or horses and using or possessing weapons.

Finally, the proposed guidelines also take into account trends in criminality and a social climate which has seen a rise in hate crime offending. The Council considered that a guideline on public order would be incomplete if it did not cover racially or religiously aggravated public order offences and those which specifically address stirring up of racial or religious hatred or hatred based on sexual orientation.

public order offences sentencing guideline consultation

Will sentences for public order offences be longer as a result?

The Sentencing Council does not anticipate that sentence severity will increase, save for a couple of exceptions concerning fines.

Data exists on the number of offenders sentenced for public order offences, and the sentences imposed.  There is, however, a lack of data on the categories of seriousness of current cases. It is therefore difficult to establish how current cases would be categorised across the levels of harm and culpability in the draft guideline.

The fear, therefore, is that these new guidelines may result in tougher sentences being imposed that will stretch an already underfunded prison service.

Read more and take part in the consultation here.

How we can assist you

If you are a suspect in a case involving a public order offence then your interview with the police will be key in terms of whether you are prosecuted or convicted of an offence.  As a result there are a number of good reasons why you ought to take our free and independent legal advice if interviewed under caution.

If you find yourself facing court proceedings and are denying the offence then we will put together the best case possible to go before the Magistrates or a jury.  Some reasons why you might wish to instruct us can be found here.

Finally, in cases where you wish to plead guilty then we will assist the court in placing your case properly within any guidelines and ensure that all mitigating features are placed before the sentencing court.  Again, some of the relevant considerations for sentence can be found here.

Please contact your nearest office for further advice

or alternatively use the contact form below

public order offences


Possession With Intent Sentencing – Suspended Sentence

Nottingham criminal solicitor advocate Phil Plant

Nottingham crime solicitor advocate Phil Plant and senior crown court litigator Ruth Campbell recently prepared a case for sentence before Derby Crown Court, securing a constructive rather than punitive sentence despite the published guidelines for possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.

Possession with Intent to Supply

possession with intent sentencing
Derby Crown Court

Our client had been charged with possession with intent to supply both heroin and crack cocaine. The police had carried out a raid on her house and found significant quantities of both types of drug.  The crack cocaine had been concealed about her person.  The quantities recovered were consistent with the supply of both of the drugs.  Our client had a long history of heroin use.

In interview our client had chosen to make no reply to questions put to her, as was her right.  Unfortunately, she then made matters worse for herself by failing to attend her first court hearing. Fortunately, she was allowed to remain on bail despite this.

Basis of Plea

Once her cases reached the Crown Court Phil discussed with the prosecution the possibility of a compromise.  His client would plead guilty to possession with intent to supply crack cocaine but would offer a plea of simple possession of the heroin.  The sale of the crack cocaine was said to be to fund her heroin addiction.  This compromise is called a ‘basis of plea’.

This compromise might prove significant upon sentence as it would be an aggravating feature were our client to be found guilty of supplying to different drugs.

The prosecution accepted the pleas on offer.  Despite a guideline starting point of 3 years even taking into account the plea Phil successfully argued that the case should be adjourned for a pre-sentence report to be prepared by the Probation service to see whether any realistic alternatives to custody should be imposed.

Constructive Sentence

At sentence,  the Judge was persuaded to impose a suspended prison sentence with community requirements despite the guidelines.  This was a far more constructive disposal and will give our client an opportunity. with support, to put her drug use behind her.

Contact Us

Custody may often not be as unavoidable as it might seem.  With careful preparation and the right approach a client may improve their chances of being dealt with leniently.  If you wish to discuss a case with Phil then please telephone him on 0115 9599550.  To speak to Ruth please telephone her on 01623 675816.  You can also email your enquiries here.