Compliance with the Guidelines

Mind the Step: A More Comprehensive Empirical Framework for the England and Wales Sentencing Guidelines

Article (Criminology and Criminal Justice)        


Presentation (Socio-Legal Studies Association)

The ‘England and Wales Sentencing Guidelines’ aim to promote consistency by organising the sentencing process as a sequence of steps, with initial judicial assessments subsequently adjusted to reflect relevant case characteristics. However, existing evaluations of the guidelines have failed to incorporate this structure adequately, instead concentrating solely on sentence outcomes. We use multivariate multilevel models to offer new insights into the effectiveness of the full sentencing process. Focusing on cases of assault sentenced at the Crown Court we show that unwarranted between court disparities at each step are minimal. However, we also show that some case characteristics are being unduly considered at more than one stage of the sentencing process, meaning existing studies may be underestimating their true influence.

An Empirical Analysis of the Determinants of Guilty Plea Discount

Working Paper (Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research)

In this report, I assess the application of the 2007 Sentencing Guidelines Council guideline, Reductions for a Guilty Plea, empirically using data collected on the Sentencing Council’s Crown Court Sentencing Survey in the year 2011. I begin by using an exploratory analysis to observe the relationship between the level of discount applied and the stage at which the guilty plea was entered. I then consider the possible impact of other factors taken into account when sentencing on the reduction applied for a guilty plea. For this, I specify different models for discrete data to regress the level of discount on a broad set of explanatory variables. Results point towards a substantial degree of agreement between the recommendations provided in the 2007 guideline and the actual level of discount received by offenders who plead guilty. In particular, the stage based approach recommended in the 2007 guideline was found to be the major factor determining the level of discount applied. However, the results also show there to be a number of departures from the guideline, such as: a) a high proportion of cases where the reduction given was higher than the maximum recommended level of 33%, with these anomalies concentrated in specific Courts; b) the presence of particular aggravating factors, on average, leading to lower levels of discount after controlling for the stage when the guilty plea was entered; and c) the presence of the mitigating factor remorse, on average, having a positive significant effect on the level of discount.