Custodial sentences available for adult offenders

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Custodial sentences available for adult offenders
  • Determinate sentences of imprisonment
  • Concurrent or consecutive sentences
  • Extended determinate sentences
  • Serious terrorism sentences
  • Life imprisonment
  • Removal from the UK prisoners serving a life sentence
  • How the court determines dangerousness

Custodial sentences available for adult offenders

This Practice Note reflects the procedural code for sentencing offenders in England and Wales (Sentencing Code) that applies from 1 December 2020, as set out in Parts 2–13 of the Sentencing Act 2020 (SA 2020). For those considering whether the Sentencing Code applies to their case, see Practice Note: Sentencing Code.

Determinate sentences of imprisonment

A determinate sentence of imprisonment is a fixed term of imprisonment. This may be contrasted with a defendant subject to an indeterminate sentence, eg life imprisonment. Offenders subject to an indeterminate sentence must serve a minimum period of imprisonment before they can be considered for release by the Parole Board.

Section 237 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 governs the setting of a sentence of imprisonment for adult offenders for a determinate term. This is known as a fixed-term sentence and is the most common type of prison sentence.

The fixed term of any sentence will be set by reference to the maximum prison term available for the offence concerned. Almost all imprisonable offences have maximum terms of imprisonment laid down in statute. In practice these are rarely imposed.

If no maximum is specified, there is a statutory two-year limit on imprisonment for statutory offences that are tried on indictment. This does not apply to common-law offences.

When statutory changes effect maximum sentences then, unless there is clear provision to

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