Arson and Criminal Damage Offences Guidelines

Closed 28 Jun 2018

Opened 27 Mar 2018


What is the Sentencing Council?

The Sentencing Council is the independent body responsible for developing sentencing guidelines for the courts to use when passing a sentence. The Council’s remit extends to allow consultation on the sentencing of offenders following conviction.

Why arson and criminal damage offences?

Currently the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines (MCSG) contains limited guidance for the sentencing of arson, criminal damage and racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage offences. These guidelines were not included as part of the recent work to update the MCSG, as that project focused on summary only offences. As these are serious, either way offences, the Council felt it was appropriate instead to update them as part of a guideline with other related offences. There are currently no sentencing guidelines for criminal damage/arson with intent to endanger life or reckless as to whether life endangered, or the threats to destroy or damage property offences, so new guidance for these offences form part of this guideline. 

The Council decided not to include guidance for the offence of possessing an article with intent to destroy or damage property, as the volumes of this offence are very low, (in 2016 25 offenders were sentenced for this offence), so the Council decided to focus on guidance for the higher volume offences.

Through this consultation process, the Council is seeking views on:

  • the principal factors that make any of the offences included within the draft guideline more or less serious;
  • the additional factors that should influence the sentence;
  • the approach taken to structuring the draft guidelines;
  • the sentences that should be passed for these offences; and
  • anything else that you think should be considered.
Which offences are covered by the consultation?


Criminal damage/arson with intent to endanger life or reckless as to whether life endangered

Criminal damage over £5,000 and racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage

Criminal damage under £5,000  and racially or religiously aggravated criminal damage

Threats to destroy or damage property

We welcome all responses to the consultation, including those limited to particular sections. So if, for example, your interest is only in the arson guideline, you may wish to focus only on section one. Two case studies to assist in considering the draft guidelines are at the end of this document.


What is the Council consulting about?

The Council has produced this consultation paper in order to seek the views of as many people as possible with an interest in the sentencing of the offences included within this consultation.

However, it is important to clarify that the Council is consulting on sentencing these offences and not on the legislation upon which such offences are based. The relevant legislation is a matter for Parliament and is, therefore, outside the scope of this exercise.

PLEASE NOTE: We will treat all responses as public documents in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and we may attribute comments and include a list of all respondents’ names in any final report we publish.  If you wish to submit a confidential response, you should contact us before sending the response.  PLEASE NOTE – We will disregard automatic confidentiality statements generated by an IT system. In addition, responses may be shared with the Justice Committee of the House of Commons.


What else is happening as part of the consultation process?

This is a 13 week public consultation. During the consultation period, the Council will host a number of consultation meetings to seek views from groups with an interest in this area as well as with sentencers. The draft guidelines will also be tested with sentencers. Once the consultation exercise is over and the results considered, a final guideline will be published and used by all adult courts.

The Council has also produced a resource assessment and a statistical bulletin detailing current sentencing practice.  The online questionnaire and these documents can be found on the Sentencing Council’s website:



  • Citizens
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  • Offenders
  • Victims
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  • UK politicians


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  • Criminal justice
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