How sentences are worked out

If you are found guilty of a crime, your sentence will depend on a number of factors, including the type, seriousness and circumstances of the crime.

When deciding on a sentence, the judge or magistrate will consider things like:

  • your age
  • if you have a criminal record
  • if you pleaded guilty or not guilty

Aggravating or mitigating circumstances

Your sentence might depend on any ‘aggravating’ or ‘mitigating’ circumstances.

An aggravating circumstance is something that makes a crime more serious, such as burgling someone’s house while they are asleep in bed.

A mitigating circumstance is something that may reduce your sentence, such as having problems in your personal life that have affected your behaviour.

Sentencing guidelines

Judges and magistrates must follow guidelines from the Sentencing Council when deciding what sentences to give. They may also look at decisions made by the Court of Appeal in previous cases - this is called ‘case law’.