Prison Sentences

Prison Sentences for Adults

When a defendant has to appear before the Magistrates Court or Crown Court, their biggest worry is whether they are at risk of receiving a prison sentence. There are very few criminal offences that don’t carry the possibility of a prison sentence, but for most defendants this risk is relatively low.

Sending someone to prison is the highest penalty that the Courts can impose in England and Wales, and so it is right that other options such as Community Orders are considered before a person is deprived of their freedom. It is even possible for the Courts to suspend a prison sentence, if they feel it would be appropriate to allow someone a final chance to avoid custody.

If the Court does consider that an offence is so serious that only an immediate prison sentence is appropriate, it will specify the length of the sentence. A prisoner would normally be eligible for release half way through this sentence, and spend the remaining period either at risk of being recalled if there were concerns that their behaviour was not appropriate or if they were arrested for a new offence.

Detention and Training Orders for Youths

As with many aspects of the Youth Court, there is a different approach to sentencing for defendants who are under the age of 18 when they are sentenced for a criminal offence. instead of imposing a prison sentence, the highest category of sentence that a Youth Court can impose is a Detention and Training Order.

Like prison sentences for adult offenders, Detention and Training Orders are reserved for defendants aged 12 to 17 who have either committed offences that are so serious that only custody is appropriate, or who have repeatedly committed offences despite being given opportunities with Youth Rehabilitation Orders.

A Detention and Training Order can only last for specific terms, of 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 18, or 24 months. For the first half of the Order, the defendant will be kept in youth custody (either a secure training unit or a Young Offender’s Institution). The youth is then released and spends the second half of the Order working under the supervision of the Youth Offender Team, to try and deal with any other problems that could result in them reoffending.

If a youth is charged with a particularly serious (grave) crime, their case may be transferred to the Crown Court. However, this is a relatively rare situation and one that would require more specific advice than this site can give.

If you are worried that you or someone you know is at risk of a prison sentence, contact us and we can give you more detailed information specific to your situation. We are also able to specialist criminal defence solicitors or barristers who may be able to take your case on and represent you if necessary.

See also: