Change to Magistrates’ Sentencing Powers & Early Release

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Change to Magistrates’ Sentencing Powers & Early Release

The sentencing regime in the magistrates' court is notoriously complex and about to change again following a government U-Turn.

In May 2022, the government allowed magistrates to imprison an adult for up to 12 months for a single either-way offence; the previous maximum for a single offence was 6 months.

This change was designed to reduce the number of cases heading to the crown court. Whether this change brought about the desired result is unknown, and we may never know, as the policy will be reversed for all convictions on or after 30 March, when the maximum penalty will once again reduce to 6 months.

So why the change?

The change appears to be designed to flow down the speed of prisoners arriving at prisons. Sending more defendants to the crown court again will ease the pressure on prison places for at least a few months. This policy change is urgent as police cells are already used as emergency prison accommodation.

Early Release

It has also been announced that early prison release on an electronic tag will be extended from 135 days to 180 days. This measure will free up approximately 400 - 600 prison places and is due to take effect on 6 June 2023.

How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact us on 0208 309 5010 or email

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