11th December 2019
In some cases, a court must order a pre-sentence report (s 156 Criminal Justice Act 2003), and a report will be appropriate in many instances when it is not a legal requirement. Sometimes a court may not be receptive to the idea of ordering a report, so we are always alive to the necessity of having a robust line of argument ready to advance in this regard.
The primary purpose of a report is to:
‘…assist the court in determining the most suitable method of dealing with an offender’.
Reports can, therefore, be a significant part of sentencing, and it is surprising that some people, including some lawyers, appear to consider them only in passing.
Our view is that clients need to be fully prepared for the report process.
Why is preparation essential?
The report is an opportunity for defendants to advance significant mitigation well in advance of their advocate standing up to mitigate formally on their behalf.
As reports are often (although not always) supplied in advance to sentencing magistrates’ and Judges, it is an early opportunity to try and influence, positively, the sentencing outcome.
A Judge will always be looking for signs of regret and remorse, not just because they were brought to justice, but because they have genuine victim empathy and regret their actions.
Report writers will be looking for evidence of insight into offending, as that often provides compelling evidence of an individual’s willingness and ability to change behaviour. Such positive signs might weigh heavily in a decision to impose a community penalty as opposed to custody.
In cases where a person does not wish to evidence remorse, for example, because they are maintaining their innocence, it will generally be better to say nothing than suggest that they do not care.
It is also vital not to implicate yourself in criminality more severe than for which you were convicted. If this does happen, all parties will need to ensure that the proper process is followed (see, for example, cases such as Cunnah (1996) 1 Cr App R (S) 393).
In appropriate cases, we will robustly challenge assertions made by the report author (for an extreme example see R (S) v Leicestershire and Rutland Probation Service  EWHC 3154 (Admin)).
It may also be necessary for us to apply to cross-examine the author of a report to challenge assertions that are being made (Green  EWCA Crim 2075).
As you can see, we take sentencing reports seriously and will offer you detailed guidance and support to ensure that all opportunities to secure the most favourable sentencing outcome are taken.
How we can assist