Sentencing Council announces new guidelines
For the first time, judges and magistrates will have guidelines to assist in sentencing perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation offences.
According to a press release by the UK's Sentencing Council , the guidelines will ensure a consistent approach is taken to sentencing these two offences and make the process more transparent and easier to understand for victims, witnesses, offenders and the public.
There are currently no guidelines for the offence of perverting the course of justice and only limited guidance in the magistrates’ courts for witness intimidation. The new guidelines, which apply to adults only, will come into effect on 1 October 2023.
Perverting the course of justice offences cover a wide range of conduct, from giving false information to police officers at a traffic stop, tampering with evidence or giving false information during a police interview. Such behaviour could lead to offenders avoiding prosecution or innocent people being wrongly investigated or charged, potentially even being convicted and sent to prison.
Witness intimidation offences include pressuring witnesses to withdraw allegations or witness statements or withhold evidence in court, using actual violence or threats of violence. Such offences could lead to people withholding important evidence critical to the outcome of a case.
Sentencing Council member, Mrs Justice May, said: “Perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation are serious offences that undermine the administration of justice by falsely accusing people or withholding crucial evidence thus potentially damaging police investigations and wasting courts’ time.
“Innocent people can suffer irreparable damage to their lives through loss of jobs, freedom or reputation while victims and witnesses can feel so frightened that they withdraw from proceedings, resulting in offenders avoiding trial and escaping punishment.”
Information on the new guidelines can be found here.