Magistrates get greater power to deal speeding motorists and animal abusers2

Speeding drivers, people who film cruelty to animals  and Tv license dodgers are to face tougher penalties in court.

New sentencing guidelines have been published today that will be used in all magistrates courts in England and Wales from April 24.

Guidelines have been updated for for the first time in 10 years and include removing the £5,000 cap and allowing magistrates to impose unlimited fines.

The Council, which is behind the changes, said the new guidelines would help magistrates assess the seriousness of an offence by looking at both the culpability of the offender and the harm the offending has caused.

A spokesman said: “This approach has been applied to all the new guidelines, which will help to ensure consistency in sentencing in all magistrates courts across all the offences covered.

The main aim of the new guidelines is to help magistrates sentence fairly and proportionately by providing them with a clear, up-to-date set of guidelines that follow the same approach.

The new guidelines are not intended to result in significant differences to current sentencing practice but they will bring changes to sentencing for some specific offences.”

Speeding offences

The council is introducing a new higher penalty for the most serious offenders.

This follows a consultation which said that the previous guidelines did not properly take into account the increase in potential harm that can result as speed above the speed limit increases.

The council has increased the penalty for the top band of seriousness to ensure that there is clear increase in fine level as the seriousness of offending increases.

This means fines for these offenders will have a starting point of 150 per cent of weekly income rather than the existing level of 100 per cent of weekly income.

Animal cruelty

 

The guideline aims to ensure that the most serious cases lead to prison sentences, and that these sentences are of an appropriate length.

For the first time, additional aggravating factors such as using technology to publicise or promote cruelty, or causing harm to guide dogs or police horses, are being included.

TV licence evasion

Conditional discharges have been added as a sentencing option within the sentencing range for the lowest level offending.

Sentencing Council member and district judge Richard Williams said: “The magistrates’ courts deal with the vast majority of offenders in England and Wales, so it is essential that the guidelines they use are up to date and help ensure that sentences are applied consistently and effectively.

“We have listened to the views of magistrates, criminal justice professionals and others with an interest in particular offence types in developing these guidelines.

“We are grateful to all those who responded to the consultation and helped shape the final versions that will be used in courts.”

 


 

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