Sentencing body plans media drive

The Sentencing Guidelines Council is preparing a media relations drive around controversial new guidelines it is set to publish.

It has called in Luther Pendragon after a competitive pitch to handle the push. The council hit headlines in September when a document leaked to a Sunday newspaper suggested that it was recommending murderers have their sentences cut if they plead guilty.

The national press will be the prime target of the campaign, according to Luther Pendragon senior consultant Ben Frankel.

‘Legal correspondents will be our first contact, but many public affairs reporters will be interested in the final guidelines,’ he said. ‘We’re agreeing a strategy with the council over the next few weeks. Once we have that in place, we can plan for when the guidelines are released.’

The Sentencing Guidelines Council was set up in the wake of the Criminal Justice Act last year to look at creating a set of guidelines for judges in England and Wales to refer to when sentencing criminals. It was established to make sentencing more consistent and transparent.

The draft guidelines were unveiled in September by Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, and proposed allowing crown court judges to apply a ‘reduction principle’.

‘A lot of our focus when the final guidelines are ready will be on getting balanced coverage,’ Frankel said.

‘In September there was an article in The Sunday Times that focused on murder tariffs when there is more to the guidelines than that,’ he added.

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