Tag Archives: sentencing

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


Client in Possession of a Bladed Article

Nottingham criminal duty solicitor Jameel Malik was recently instructed in a sentencing before a District Judge at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court.  The case involved possession of a bladed article.

possession of a bladed article sentencing
Nottingham Magistrates’ Court

Possession of a Bladed Article

Jameel’s client was to be sentenced for possession of a bladed article.  There had been an argument with a shopkeeper.  This then led to our client arguing with his friend.

The second argument was witnessed by off duty police officers.  When approached by officers, Jameel’s client then ran away.  When detained and searched he was found to have a knife on him.

Breach of a Suspended Sentence

The offence put our client in breach of both a suspended sentence order and a conditional discharge.  Despite this, Jameel was able to persuade the Magistrates that a probation report ought to be ordered and the case was adjourned for one to be repaired.

Once the report had been prepared, Jameel was then able to argue that in this case it would not be just to activate the suspended sentence.  He put forward the following:

  • the suspended sentence order was imposed for a different type of offence
  • it had been imposed five months earlier
  • in that time, his client had been working well with the probation service

The District Judge, who had read the pre-sentence report, was persuaded by Jameel’s arguments.  The operation period in relation to the existing suspended sentence was extended by 6 months.

In relation to the offence of possession of a bladed article a new short suspended sentence was imposed.

No action was taken in relation to the conditional discharge.

Contact Nottingham Crime Solicitor Jameel Malik

possession of a bladed article sentencing Nottingham Magistrates
Nottingham crime solicitor Jameel Malik

Whether you face a police investigation or court proceedings you will want to instruct a solicitor who will seek the best result for you in your circumstances.  You can telephone Jameel on 0115 9599550.  Alternatively you can use the form below.



Suspended sentence for Grievous Bodily Harm at Chesterfield

suspended sentence grievous bodily harm chesterfield
Chesterfield crime solicitor David Gittins

Chesterfield Crime Solicitor David Gittins recently represented a young man before Chesterfield Magistrates Court. His client had been charged with the serious offence of section 20 Grievous Bodily Harm or GBH.  It was alleged he had broken the jaw of the complainant.

The sentencing guidelines mean that such an offence will regularly carry a custodial sentence upon conviction.  Furthermore, such cases will often be dealt with before the Crown Court.

In this case, David gave careful consideration to the guidelines and the facts.  As a result he was able to convince the court not only to keep the case but also to impose an alternative to immediate custody.

Free police station advice and representation

Experienced Police Station Representative Rob Lowe first attended Chesterfield Police station with our client.  This was some months before the matter finally came before the court.

Chesterfield Police Station Representative Rob Lowe

Rob was able to provide free legal advice following arrest for grievous bodily harm. This was under the legal aid scheme.  Such advice is not means tested so as a result will always be free of charge.

Having a legal representative in the police station is always important.  Rob was able to secure information from the police about the incident.  As a result the client knew in advance what the allegation was.  Rob took our client’s instructions. He was then able to advise on the strength of the evidence.

The evidence was very strong  as our client was named as the aggressor. Our client accepted that he was guilty of the offence.  He then had a decision to make as to whether he would answer police questions or not.

Rob was able to explain that there is often something to be gained by answering police questions even where a person will accept guilt at court.  In this case it was important that our client explain at the outset why he had acted as he did.  It was an early opportunity for him to say how sorry he felt.  This would help him gain maximum credit on sentence when the case reached court.

Late service of CCTV evidence (again)

When the matter was eventually charged David took over the management of the case to prepared the case for court.  Although the entire incident was covered by CCTV this was not available until the day the case was first in court.

The footage was clear and showed our client punching the victim once to the face.  He was knocked to the ground. Sadly the victim was left with a fractured jaw that needed surgery.  The Prosecution was to argue that the case should be allocated to the Crown Court as the Magistrates’ sentencing powers were insufficient.

Representations on mode of trial and allocation

David was able to argue against that, relying on a number of factors:

  • The CCTV footage showed his client breaking up a fight immediately before he threw the punch
  • he walked off straight away
  • there was a single punch so no follow up
  • he was of good character
  • he was only 18 at the time of the incident
  • his early admission of guilty

The Magistrates were taken through the relevant sentencing guidelines in detail.  As a result, despite prosecution representations, the Magistrates agreed the case could remain in their court.  The case was adjourned in order that a pre-sentence could be obtained from the probation service.

Suspended sentence for Grievous Bodily Harm

When the matter returned to Court a week later the Probation service had prepared a report.  Although prison remained an option, the report concluded that our client’s risk could be managed outside the prison system. As a result, any punishment could properly be within the community.

David’s powerful and reasoned mitigation led to his client receiving a twelve week sentence of imprisonment.  This sentence would be suspended.  This was combined with community elements and compensation.

As a result our client was understandably delighted.  He realised just how close he had come to receiving an immediate prison sentence.

Contact a Chesterfield Criminal Defence Specialist

Without condoning violence, the outcome shows that with the right preparation a court can be persuaded to sentence on the basis of single mistake that will never be repeated.  There is often flexibility within the guidelines to permit a sentence that properly reflects the mitigation available to a client.

However, you will only be able to secure the best result for you in the circumstances if you choose your legal representatives carefully.

If you face a police investigation or court proceedings for an offence such as Grievous Bodily Harm then you can contact David or Rob at our Chesterfield office on 01246 283000.  Alternatively you can use the form below to email your enquiry to us.


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.