What is a sentence?

A sentence is the punishment given to an offender who has been convicted of a crime. It is decided by a judge or magistrate, and comes at the end of a prosecution.

How sentences are decided

The Sentencing Council is the body responsible for setting the guidelines that judges and magistrates have to follow when deciding upon sentences for offenders.

Sentencing guidelines help judges and magistrates decide the appropriate sentence for a criminal offence, and ensure consistency in the approach to sentencing.

Watch this short video that explains the system:

How offenders are sentenced in England and Wales

Sentencing and you

If you’ve been a victim or witness of a crime and someone is taken to court and found guilty, you’ll probably want to know the outcome of the trial. 

You may have gone through the difficult process of giving evidence in court, so it’s only normal to want to see how the offender is held to account for what they have done.

Whether or not you think the sentence the court gives is right, it can be helpful to have an understanding of the sentencing guidelines, and how the courts decide what kind of punishment fits the crime.

Further information on sentencing

The Sentencing Council

A victim's guide to parole

How offenders are sentenced in England and Wales (YouTube)

What types of sentence can offenders get? (YouTube)

What factors influence the sentence an offender gets? (YouTube)

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