The Sentencing Council is consulting on revised sentencing guidelines for seven assault offences, including common assault and attempted murder, and a new guideline for assault on emergency workers.
The Council is proposing changes to the way in which the seriousness of assault offences is assessed. The revised draft guidelines introduce, where possible, more specific culpability and harm factors as well as a greater number of offence categories and sentence starting points and ranges.
The draft guidelines, which apply to adult offenders, propose:
- a new high-culpability factor in common assault offences of “Intention to cause fear of serious harm, including disease transmission”, and inclusion of “spitting or coughing” as an aggravating factor;
- the introduction of a greater number of seriousness categories and sentence starting points in guidelines for sentencing ABH and GBH to provide sentencers with more specific factors to help assess seriousness and ensure appropriate sentences that accurately reflect culpability and harm; and
- revised guidance for attempted murder to reflect changes to legislation in respect of sentences for murder where weapons are taken to the scene, and to bring the guideline into line with the Council’s stepped model.
The Council is also proposing specific guidance for sentencing assaults against emergency workers, to reflect the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018, which introduced a higher statutory maximum sentence of 12 months for these offences.
The proposed new guideline reflects the intention of the legislation: all but one offence category provides for a custodial sentence to be imposed and half the categories include custodial starting points.
In response to the current circumstances, the Council has issued interim guidance to assist the courts in sentencing common assault offences in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The interim guidance clarifies that, when sentencing common assault offences involving threats or activity relating to transmission of Covid-19, courts should treat this as an aggravating feature of the offence.
The consultation, which is open until 15 September 2020, has been extended beyond the usual three months in recognition of the changes to many consultees’ working circumstances. Following consultation, definitive guidelines are expected to come into force in 2021