Totality guideline consultation

Closed 11 Jan 2023

Opened 5 Oct 2022


What is this consultation about?

The Sentencing Council is proposing to revise the Totality guideline. In summary, when sentencing an offender for more than one offence, or where the offender is already serving a sentence, courts must consider whether the total sentence is just and proportionate to the overall offending behaviour. The Totality guideline sets out the principles to be followed, the approach for different types of sentence and gives examples of how sentences should be structured in different circumstances.

What is the Sentencing Council?

The Sentencing Council is the independent body responsible for developing sentencing guidelines which courts in England and Wales must follow when passing a sentence. The Council consults on its proposed and revised guidelines before they come into force and makes changes to the guidelines as a result of consultations.

Why are we doing this?

The Council has a statutory duty to ‘prepare sentencing guidelines about the application of any rule of law as to the totality of sentences’ (Coroners and Justice Act 2009, section 120(3)(b)). The Totality guideline has been in force since 11 June 2012 and is used in all criminal courts. In September 2021 the Council published a research report on the Totality guideline: Exploring sentencers’ views of the Sentencing Council’s Totality guideline. The Council stated that in the light of the findings of the research it would review the guideline and consult on the proposed changes in 2022.

Responding to the consultation

This consultation paper has been produced in order to seek views from as many people as possible interested in the sentencing.

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

  • the approach that the guideline takes to the sentencing of multiple offences;
  • the accuracy and clarity of the information in the guideline; 
  • the presentation and format of the guideline;
  • whether there are any issues relating to disparity of sentencing and/or broader matters relating to equality and diversity that the guideline could and should address; and
  • anything else you think should be considered.

We would like to hear from anyone who uses sentencing guidelines in their work or who has an interest in sentencing. We would also like to hear from individuals and organisations representing anyone who could be affected by the proposals including:

  • victims of crime and their families;
  • defendants and their families;
  • those under probation supervision or youth offending teams/supervision;
  • those with protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

It is important to note that the Council is consulting on the approach to sentencing multiple offences and not on the sentences for particular offences.

During the 14 week consultation period, the Council will also hold meetings with sentencers and key stakeholders to discuss the draft guideline. Following the consultation, once the results of the consultation and the discussions have been considered, the final guideline will be published and used by all courts when sentencing multiple offences.  

Alongside this consultation paper, the Council has produced a resource assessment. This can be found on the Sentencing Council’s website:

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 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.


  • Legal professionals
  • Judiciary
  • Police
  • Prosecutors
  • Victims
  • Legal professional bodies
  • Academics


  • Criminal justice