Irish Penal Reform Trust

UK: Draft sentencing guidelines for offenders with mental health conditions

12th April 2019

The Sentencing Council (Eng & Wales) has launched a consultation on its proposed guideline on sentencing offenders with mental health conditions or disorders. In its final form, judges and magistrates in England and Wales will, for the first time, have a clear structure and process to follow when sentencing people with mental health conditions and disorders, and those with learning disabilities, autism, brain injury, substance misuse disorders and dementia.

The draft guideline sets out proposed general principles for sentencing, including that:

  • The approach taken by the courts should focus on individual circumstances, because the level of impairment caused by any condition will vary significantly between offenders and some mental health conditions are not obvious.
  • The rights and needs of offenders should be balanced with the protection of the public, and the recognition of the rights and needs of victims/families to feel safe.
  • The courts should decide how much responsibility the offender retains for the offence, given the particular order or condition and the specifics of the case.
  • Courts should carefully consider all the facts in each case, including what is practically available, before deciding on the sentence.

The guidelines for Sentencing Offenders with Mental Health Conditions or Disorders, which are intended for consultation only in their current form, are available from the Sentencing Council website here.

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