The Sentencing Council is an independent body who is responsible for creating guidelines for courts, judges and magistrates to use when they sentence an offender. There are no formal guidelines for courts to use when sentencing offenders for drug offences, therefore sentencing has been inconsistent and largely at the discretion of the ruling Judge. The Council acknowledges that:
'it is important to ensure that sentencing is as fair, consistent and proportionate as possible within each offence and across all the offences covered by the draft guideline, and the sentencing ranges and starting points have been set with this in mind throughout.' - Professional Consultation version, p.4
They have launched a three month public and professional consultation to gather opinions of those, in the public, who have an interest in the criminal justice system in England and Wales. These opinions will help in creating solid sentencing guidelines for courts. The importance of these guidelines is that sentences will then be proportionate to the offence committed. The Judge or Magistrate will take into consideration the level of the offender's role in the offence, the amount of drugs seized and the impact on victims.
The paper outlines how some considerations need to be approached differently, for example sentencing for those who are in possession of drugs in prison (p.13 - Public Consultations version).
IPRT will, this year, carry out an evaluation of Amendment of Section 15(a) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 (Criminal Justice Act 1999). We believe that this legislation has had a significant impact on rising prison numbers in recent years, as it results in low level drug offences being punished disproportionately to the actual level of harm, and that it has no impact on the level of drug related crime.