Sentencing Council updates guidelines on child cruelty offences
The revised guidelines reflect changes introduced by the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Act 2022
The Sentencing Council published revised sentencing guidelines for child cruelty offences on 7 March, which reflect the recent changes introduced by the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Act 2022.
The changes introduced include an increase in the maximum penalties for two specific offences, namely: causing or allowing a child to die or suffer serious physical harm (contrary to Section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004); and cruelty to a child, including ill-treatment, abandonment or neglect (contrary to Section 1(1) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933). The revised guidelines introduce a new category of sentences for ‘very high culpability,’ which reflects the increased maximum penalties brought in by the legislation.
Specifically, the sentencing guideline for causing or allowing a child to die has been revised to include a sentencing range of up to 18 years in prison, and the new sentencing ranges for causing or allowing a child to suffer serious physical harm and for cruelty to a child go up to 12 years’ custody. It is believed that the new maximum penalties for child cruelty offences will help the courts be consistent in the approach to sentencing the most serious cases of child cruelty.
The Sentencing Council launched a public consultation in 2022 in order to gather views on proposed changes to the existing sentencing guidelines for child cruelty offences in light of the changes to the maximum penalties. Alongside the issuance of the revised guidelines, the Sentencing Council has also published a summary of the responses received to its consultation, which closed in October 2022. On 6 March, data tables explaining the current sentencing practice for child cruelty offences were published in preparation for the launch of the Council’s revised child cruelty guidelines.
Sentencing Council Chairman, Lord Justice William Davis, said: “Child cruelty offences are by their very nature targeted against particularly vulnerable people – children – and it is important that courts have up-to-date guidelines that reflect the penalties set by Parliament. The revisions published today will ensure that the courts can reflect the new penalties consistently and transparently and will have available to them the full range of possible sentences when dealing with the worst cases of child cruelty.”
The revised guidelines come into force on 1 April 2023 and the new maximum penalties will apply only to offences committed on or after 28 June 2022.