On 22nd February 2018 the news reported that ‘tougher sentences’ would be introduced for cases that involved domestic abuse.
This comes from the definitive guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council – “Overarching Principles : Domestic Abuse”
It’s worth a read to explain exactly what is proposed. It won’t take very long, running in at 12 pages, half of which are blank for ‘notes’.
It’s different to the ‘normal’ Guidelines, and not just in length (the Sexual Offences Guidelines run into 161 pages) in that it does not deal with specific offences (ABH for example), but (as the name suggests) with principles to be applied in dealing with any offence that has an element of domestic abuse. So it would be relevant to a burglary charge where a former partner broke into his ex’s address.
There are a list of aggravating and mitigating features that may be present, which effectively mirror the ones that you would likely find in the individual offence guidelines.
It is made clear that the wishes of the victim is irrelevant in the sentencing exercise (presumably whether the victim is seeking to mitigate or aggravate the sentence), although the Court should take account of a Victim Personal Statement is assessing the impact of the offending on the victim.
The Guidelines do seem to reflect current sentencing practice; provocation is generally not mitigation in domestic offending, offences involving serious violence or learning to severe harm will (generally) require a custodial sentence and the Court should consider arguments in mitigation based on the impact on the children of any relationship with caution.
The news reports indicate that this will lead to higher sentences however. If this is something that you wish to explore, then have a look at the Council’s Resource Assessment of the new Guidelines which suggests that there will be (at least for adults) : “Overall, it is likely that there will be an increase in severity as courts apply the new guideline which ensures that sentencers treat cases committed in a domestic context as more serious. The exact magnitude of any increase, or any change in the distribution of cases across different disposals, is impossible to predict with any greater precision“. It will be interesting what difference it does make in practice.