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Sentencing Council to focus on the effect on robbery victims in new guidance

New sentencing proposals emphasise seriousness of knife and gun robberies

21 October 2014

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A new sentencing guideline is being produced so judges hand down consistent and proportionate sentences for the variety of offenders who come before them.

The draft guidance covers all robbery offences committed by adults as per section 8(1) of the Theft Act 1968. This includes street robbery, commercial robbery and home robberies.

The guidelines only apply to the sentencing of adult offenders. The Council is currently reviewing the overall guidance for judges and magistrates on the sentencing of youths, which will also include guidance for sentencing those convicted of robbery.

The Council's proposals expand existing guidance for judges to include robbery in people's homes or for professionally planned commercial robberies which are not covered by the current guidelines. The new guidance will be used to sentence a wider range of offending.

The new guideline also reflects society's concerns about the problem of knife and gun robberies. The Council proposes that any offences where a knife or gun is used, or their use is threatened, will be considered to be the most serious in order to ensure the longest sentences are given to offenders who arm themselves with weapons.

Under existing guidance, use of a weapon does not automatically mean offenders are put in the top category of seriousness. The draft guideline proposes offenders be placed in the category which attracts the highest sentences.

The guideline also increases the focus on the effect on the victim to emphasise not only physical injuries but also psychological harm, placing the full impact on the victim as the centre of sentencing considerations.

Chairman of the Sentencing Council, Lord Justice Treacy, said: "Robberies can leave victims injured or traumatised as well as losing property, so we are ensuring that the full impact of these offences is at the forefront of judges' considerations about the length of sentence a robber should get.

"Our proposals will give judges comprehensive guidance to help them sentence the great range of offenders who come before them, from a street mugger to gang members responsible for a major heist."

Lord Justice Treacy added: "We are also reflecting public concerns over the carrying of knives, guns or imitation firearms. This consultation is open to everyone - we want both criminal justice professionals and members of the public to give their views about our proposals."

The Council's proposed guidance is now subject to consultation which can be accessed here.

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors Journal

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