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Revised sentencing guidelines for assault offences and attempted murder

The Sentencing Council has today (27 May 2021) published revised sentencing guidelines for assault offences, including common assault and attempted murder, and new guidance for assault on emergency workers.

The guidelines have been revised following evaluation of the existing assault guidelines, which were the first ever issued by the Sentencing Council, and to reflect the stepped approach introduced in more recent Council guidelines. They apply to adult offenders.

Details of the revisions made to the guidelines and the Council’s reasons for making them, are set out in the consultation response document also being published today.

The revisions include:

  • New guidance for sentencing aggravated offences of common assault on emergency workers to reflect changes in legislation. This has been aligned with the ‘uplift’ approach used for racially and religiously aggravated offences
  • Revised guideline for attempted murder, with a new sentence range of up to 40 years to make sure sentences reflect the gravity of the most serious offences
  • A new high-culpability factor of “intention to cause fear of serious harm, including disease transmission” in the common assault guideline
  • A new aggravating factor of “deliberate spitting or coughing” in the guidelines for common assault and assault causing actual bodily harm (ABH) offences
  • A new high-culpability factor of strangulation to include asphyxiation and suffocation in all guidelines except attempted murder
  • A revised high-culpability factor of “victim obviously vulnerable due to age, personal characteristics or circumstances” across all guidelines except for attempted murder
  • Improved harm assessments across the guidelines to replace “injury which is serious in the context of the offence”
  • Increased sentences for common assault offences with a starting point of a fine in only the lowest category of seriousness.

Other changes have been made across all guidelines, including:

  • the introduction of a greater number of offence categories and sentence starting points. These will help ensure appropriate assessments of culpability and harm, and proportionate sentences that reflect the seriousness of the offences; and
  • the existing aggravating factor of “offence committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public” has been retained and now also captures offences against a person coming to the assistance of emergency workers. These measures provide for increased sentences for assaults on an individual providing a service to the public.

The guidelines published today are designed to help the courts take a consistent approach to sentencing assault offences, to make a balanced assessment of the seriousness of those offences and to impose appropriate and proportionate sentences.

The six guidelines are:

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