Imposition of community and custodial sentences guideline consultation

Closed 21 Feb 2024

Opened 29 Nov 2023


What is this consultation about?

The Sentencing Council is proposing to revise the Imposition of community and custodial sentences guideline.

The existing Imposition of community and custodial sentences overarching guideline was issued on 1 February 2017. The Imposition guideline is the overarching guideline for general principles around imposing community orders and custodial sentences, and in what circumstances a custodial sentence can be suspended. It is also the main guideline for guidance on requesting pre-sentence reports and community requirements and includes a sentencing decision flow chart.

More than six years after it was brought into force, changes to legislation, new case law and case management guidance, further evidence about the experiences of individual offender groups in the criminal justice and important sentencing research, alongside a variety of both general and practitioner feedback, led the Council to undertake a comprehensive review. This review started in July 2022 and has now reached the consultation stage. It includes revisions to all of the existing sections of the guideline, and the addition of several new sections.

Summary of the proposed changes

The revised imposition guideline has been restructured to align better with the chronological order of the court’s considerations of a case when it is first heard in a sentencing court. As such, the proposed sections of the guideline, and the information contained within them, are now proposed to be in the following order:

  1. Thresholds
  2. Pre-Sentence Reports
  3. Purposes and Effectiveness of Sentencing
  4. Imposition of Community Orders
  5. Requirements
  6. Community Order Levels
  7. Imposition of Custodial sentences
  8. Suspended Sentence orders

In addition to the restructuring outlined above, much of the existing content has been amended. There are a number of additional sections, or additions or deletions to existing sections have been made as described in more detail in the consultation.

Other changes

In addition to the changes consulted on in this document, the Council made other minor changes to the guideline in June 2022 that were not necessary to consult on for various reasons. These can be seen in the Annex below.

The Council is aware of potential changes to a number of sentencing provisions contained within the Sentencing Bill and Criminal Justice Bill, currently before Parliament. The Council will note the progress of these bills through Parliament with interest and will consider the implications for this, and any other sentencing guidelines, at whatever point the provisions might gain royal assent.

Responding to the consultation

This consultation is open to everyone including members of the judiciary, legal practitioners and any individuals or organisations who work in, have an interest in, or have lived experience of the criminal justice system.

Through this consultation process, the Council is seeking views on the usefulness, accuracy and clarity of the proposed changes and anything else that you think should be considered.

In the following sections the proposed changes are outlined in detail and you will be asked to give your views. You can give your views by answering some or all of the questions either via the link below or by email to Please send your response by 21 February 2024.

What else is happening as part of the consultation process?

This is a 12 week public consultation. The Council has not planned any open public consultation meetings but would be happy to arrange a meeting to discuss any of the issues raised if this would be helpful. Once the results of the consultation have been considered, the updated guidelines will be published and used by all courts.

Response paper and freedom of information

Following the conclusion of this consultation exercise, a response will be published at:

We will treat all responses as public documents in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 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.

Our privacy notice sets out the standards that you can expect from the Sentencing Council when we request or hold personal information (personal data) about you; how you can get access to a copy of your personal data; and what you can do if you think the standards are not being met.


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