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New Sentencing Council Guidelines - Allocation of Cases

March 6th, 2012 by Louise Humphreys

Posted In: General

Tags: magistrates' court, court, crime, criminal procedings, crown court

The Sentencing Council has published definitive guidelines on the allocation of cases. The guidelines will come into effect on 11 June 2012.

Allocation concerns the decision of a Magistrates' Court as to whether it is appropriate that an offence which could be tried either way should remain in the Magistrates' Court or be sent to the Crown Court.

When deciding whether an either way offence is more suitable for summary trial or trial on indictment, section 19 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 provides that the court shall give the prosecutor and the accused the opportunity to make representations as to which court is more suitable for the conduct of the trial.

The court must also have regard to:

  • the nature of the case;
  • whether the circumstances make the offence one of a serious character;
  • whether the punishment which a Magistrates' Court would have the power to inflict for the offence would be adequate; and
  • any other circumstances which appear to the Court to make the offence more suitable for it to be tried in one way rather than the other.

The guideline aims to encourage a consistent approach to allocation decisions so that defendants are tried at the appropriate level. It states:

"In general, either way offences should be tried summarily unless it is likely that the court's sentencing powers will be insufficient. Its powers will generally be insufficient if the outcome is likely to result in a sentence in excess of six months' imprisonment for a single offence.
The court should assess the likely sentence in the light of the facts alleged by the prosecution case, taking into account all aspects of the case including those advanced by the defence.
The court should refer to definitive guidelines to assess the likely sentence for the offence."