Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Reforming the criminal law - Law Commission report on Offences against the Person

The Law Commission has recommended modernisation of the law on violence - Law Commission Offences against the person: Modernising the law on violence

New rules are needed to tackle violent offences and make better use of court time, according to the Law Commission.

In a scoping report issued today the Law Commission is recommending reforms that would:
  • replace the outdated Offences Against the Person Act 1861 with modern, clear and logical legislation
  • create a new offence of “aggravated assault”, to bridge the gap between common assault and the much more serious actual bodily harm (ABH), and
  • extend the offence of threats to kill to include threats to cause serious injury and threats to rape.
As well as significantly cutting court costs
the new offence would allow violent assaults to be charged at a more appropriate level. Currently over 70% of the ABH cases taking up expensive Crown Court time receive sentences of 12 months or less. Charged as aggravated assault, such cases could be heard in the Magistrates’ Courts. In order to keep cases out of Crown Court, many assaults causing injury are currently charged as common assault, which fails to acknowledge the violent nature of the offence.

A power to increase the sentencing powers of the Magistrates' Courts to 12 months imprisonment is in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 section 282 but has not yet been activated.  The reasons for that are unclear.

The Guardian 3rd November 2003 - Let Magistrates deal with more assault cases ...

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