Legal News

Increasing magistrates’ powers to impose custodial sentences for either way offences—will it reduce the Crown Court backlog?

Published on: 11 May 2022
Published by: LexisPSL
  • Increasing magistrates’ powers to impose custodial sentences for either way offences—will it reduce the Crown Court backlog?
  • Doubled sentence exposure risks an increase in elections
  • Jurisdiction creep and sentence length inflation in the magistrates’ courts
  • Already stretched representation stretched further
  • Gains eroded by increased appeals?

Article summary

Corporate Crime analysis: The Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Commencement No 33) and Sentencing Act 2020 (Commencement No 2) Regulations 2022, SI 2022/500 came into force on 2 May 2022. The regulations bring section 282 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (CJA 2003), into force. This amends section 32 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980 (MCA 1980), increasing the maximum sentence available after summary conviction for offences triable either way which were committed after commencement (on or after 2 May 2022). The effect is that magistrates’ sentence powers double from 6–12 months’ imprisonment for the scheduled either way offences. A parallel provision gives effect to a similar awaited amendment in schedule 22, para 24 of the Sentencing Act 2020 (SA 2020), expanding the maximum sentence for all other either way offences (those not in the MCA 1980, sch 1). Harry O’Sullivan, Author of Banks on Sentence and Criminal Barrister of Goldsmith Chambers considers the impact this increase will have. Magistrates already had the power to impose sentences of up to 12 months’ imprisonment where they were dealing with two or more either way offences, via consecutively imposed periods of 6 months. The maximum sentence for offences triable only summarily has not changed and remains six months (or fewer where specified, see eg, MCA 1980, s 33 low-value criminal damage, three months; or section 89(2) of the Police Act 1996, resisting a constable, one month). or take a trial to read the full analysis.

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