Evaluation of Sentencing Council Guidelines for Drug and Theft Offences

Entry and crest of the Westminster Magistrates' Court

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At the request of the Sentencing Council, researchers assessed whether sentencing guidelines for specific drug and theft offences in England and Wales have an impact on sentencing outcomes and whether there are any issues with their implementation.

Background

Sentencing guidelines help judges and magistrates decide the appropriate sentence for a criminal offence and help to ensure that courts are consistent in their approach to sentencing. Guidelines for courts in England and Wales are produced by the Sentencing Council, established in 2010. The drug and theft offence guidelines came into effect in February 2012 and February 2016, respectively.

Goals

RAND Europe was commissioned by the Sentencing Council to evaluate the guidelines for selected drug and theft offences. The aim of the project was to assess whether sentencing guidelines for specific drug and theft offences have an impact on sentencing outcomes and whether or not there are any issues with their implementation.

Outcomes

Using a survey in selected magistrates’ courts and secondary data analysis of national sentencing data, the project helped to identify whether sentencing outcomes for drug and theft offences changed after the new guidelines came into force, and examined some of the key factors affecting sentencing practice.