New sentencing guidelines for some drugs offences will come in to force on 1 April 2021. Judges will now be advised to hand out longer sentences if certain aggravating factors are at play.
Have you been charged with a drugs offence? Contact our criminal defence lawyers for free legal advice. We can represent you throughout proceedings, applying our expertise to get you the best possible outcome. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What are the sentencing guidelines?
Sentencing guidelines are the guidelines that judges follow when they decide what punishment to hand out. If you are found guilty of a drugs offence, the judge will consult the relevant guidelines to determine a fitting penalty. Judges should only ignore these guidelines in exceptional circumstances.
New sentencing guidelines for drugs offences
As of 1 April 2021, new sentencing guidelines for certain drugs offences will take effect. Judges must apply these new guidelines to all cases on or after that date. It was decided that the old guidelines needed updating because greater clarity and transparency was required around the sentencing process for drugs offences.
What do the new sentencing guidelines for drugs offences say?
The new guidelines introduce additional ‘aggravating factors’. These are things that work against you, persuading the judge to hand out a harsher sentence. Now, sentences could be increased for offenders who use the home of a vulnerable person, exploit children or run county lines operations in their offending.
Also, sentencing guidelines have been introduced for new types of drugs which have been brought onto the market over recent years. This includes various kinds of ‘Spice’ and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.
Judges are asked to consider a ‘harm table’ when assessing exactly how much harm the offender has caused. The harm table has been amended so that a judge is not just considering the number of drugs, but also the purity (in the case of ecstasy) and the yield (as in the case of cannabis). The harm table will now be reviewed every three years.
Finally, the new guidelines draw attention to the fact that sentencing outcomes vary greatly depending on the offender’s ethnicity and sex. The Sentencing Council say they have taken measures to address this.
It remains to be seen what impact the new sentencing guidelines will have for those convicted of drugs offences. However, it is likely that sentences will increase for some. That is why it is vitally important to have an experienced defence lawyer on your side. Our criminal defence solicitors are highly skilled advocates and can represent you throughout proceedings. Contact us now for free legal advice about your legal matter. Read more on the new pre-charge engagement guidelines.
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