Lord Judge’s Sentences

The Government’s planned new Sentencing Council will not be able to function without more money, England’s most senior judge said today.

Lord Judge, who is chairman of the current Sentencing Guidelines Council, was introducing the council’s annual report.

He noted that legislation currently before Parliament would abolish the council and the Sentencing Advisory Panel, replacing them both with a new Sentencing Council for England and Wales.

In addition to drafting sentencing guidelines, the new council will have extra responsibilities for monitoring the operation and effect of guidelines and assessing the impact on correctional resources of policy and legislative proposals.

Lord Judge said that if the new Sentencing Council was to be responsible for examining the resource implications of statutory provisions, it must be adequately staffed and funded for this purpose.

“We must face the reality that as currently resourced, the Council simply could not support all the proposed new functions,” he said.

It was not the first time Lord Judge had advised ministers to assess the costs of changes before introducing them.

“If this practice had applied when, for example, the provisions for imprisonment for public protection in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 were under consideration, the potentially alarming consequences of under-resourcing may have been avoided,” he noted.

Prof Andrew Ashworth, chairman of the Sentencing Advisory Panel, pointed out the advantages of including members from outside the criminal justice system. This was one of the ways in which the panel took public opinion into account.

But this will not be the case in future: non-legal members of the new Sentencing Council will need to have had specialised experience before being appointed.

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