General sentencing issues

Date01 December 2020
Published date01 December 2020
Subject MatterIn court
In court
Nigel Stone, University of East Anglia, reviews recent appeal judgments and other
judicial developments that inform sentencing and early release.
General sentencing issues
Perverting justice to evade driving regulations
When a police officer stopped W. who was driving a van shown as uninsured, he
claimed to be RH, giving that man’s correct date of birth. A computer check of RH’s
driving licence indicated someone with some resemblance to W. and RH was duly
prosecuted for driving without insurance. When RH’s partner complained that he
was not the driver of the van and had been unsuccessfully prosecuted previously in
an identical case of impersonation, the true identity of the driver was established
and W. was prosecuted for perverting the course of justice. Aged in his late 30s, he
had accrued numerous convictions between 1994 and 2011 for a range of
offences, principally acquisitive property crime but including a previous instance of
perverting justice and multiple driving offences. He had a record of non-compliance
with court orders. A pre-sentence report (PSR) reported that latterly he had been
seeking to earn a living through legitimate employment as a driver but had been
struggling financially. He had no driving licence. It was not clear how he had any
knowledge of RH and it could not be established that it was him who had sought to
impersonate RH for insurance violation previously. Identifying the need for deter-
rence, the judge had referred to W.’s ‘do as you please attitude’, describing him as
‘a chancer with no regard for the law’.
On W.’s appeal against 12 months’ immediate custodial sentence following
guilty pleas (including driving without licence or insurance), the Court of Appeal
noted the absence of a sentencing guideline or any guideline cases for perverting
the course of justice but stated that ‘it is well established that an offence of this nature
will almost inevitably require a sentence of immediate custody’. The key con-
siderations are the seriousness of the substantive offence to which the attempted
deception relates; the degree of persistence in the conduct in question; and the
success or otherwise of the attempt. In this instance, W. had allowed the ploy to
continue for several months until the truth was uncovered. While the impact upon RH
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
Probation Journal
2020, Vol. 67(4) 460–472
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0264550520961630

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