Important sentencing consultation: wildlife and fire regulation offences

England, Wales

Until 11 September 2018 the Sentencing Council in England and Wales is consulting on a General guideline for offences not covered by specific guidance on sentencing. The proposed guideline would cover a range of offences including wildlife and fire regulation offences which are neither covered by the existing Definitive Guideline on Environmental Offences nor the Health and Safety, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline.

As many readers will be aware the specific guidelines referred to above have changed the approach to sentencing with the starting point of a fining range being determined initially by the Defendant organisation’s turnover, then level of harm and culpability, aggravating and mitigating factors followed by any reduction in fine for a guilty plea. This in general appears to have increased the level of fines otherwise imposed at least on larger organisations. Fire regulation and wildlife offences are at present covered by non specific offence guidance including a Guideline on Seriousness.

The proposal is to:

  1. replace the Seriousness guideline;
  2. provide a guideline for the sentencing of offences not covered by an offence specific guideline;
  3. embed in that guideline, overarching guidance on sentencing issues.

The proposed guideline will apply to sentencing adults and organisations only.

The Sentencing Council is seeking views on:

  • the principal factors that make offences more or less serious;
  • additional factors which should influence the sentence;
  • the applicability of the guideline to a wide range of offences;
  • the clarity and accessibility of the guideline; and
  • anything else that should be considered.

This consultation should be of interest to a wide range from developers and housing managers, planners and community groups and NGOs. Some may query why fire regulation and wildlife offences should be treated differently in principle to the offences set out in the Definitive guidelines. Notwithstanding the form of approach to be taken developments in this area should be expected.