New sentencing guidelines have been published by the Sentencing Council that will be used in all magistrates courts in England and Wales.

Magistrates’ courts deal with lower level offences and hear the vast majority of criminal cases that come before the courts. The new guidelines cover the varied range of offences they handle, including some motoring offences such as speeding.

For speeding offences, the Council is introducing a new higher penalty for the most serious offenders. This follows calls from respondents to the consultation who said that the previous guidelines did not properly take into account the increase in potential harm that can result as speed above the speed limit increases.

The Council has therefore increased the penalty for the top band of seriousness to ensure that there is clear increase in fine level as the seriousness of offending increases. This means fines for these offenders will have a starting point of 150 per cent of weekly income rather than the existing level of 100 per cent of weekly income.

Sentencing Council member and district judge Richard Williams said: “The magistrates’ courts deal with the vast majority of offenders in England and Wales, so it is essential that the guidelines they use are up to date and help ensure that sentences are applied consistently and effectively. We have listened to the views of magistrates, criminal justice professionals and others with an interest in particular offence types in developing these guidelines. We are grateful to all those who responded to the consultation and helped shape the final versions that will be used in courts.”

The Sentencing Council is introducing the new guidelines to reflect changes in the law since magistrates’ guidelines were last updated in 2008.

It has introduced a more thorough approach to sentencing, which leads magistrates to assess the seriousness of an offence by looking at both the culpability of the offender and the harm the offending has caused.

Commenting on the new guidelines on increased fines for drivers caught speeding, RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “We welcome the change in sentencing guidelines for gross speeders. Anyone who breaks the limit excessively is a danger to every other road user and is unnecessarily putting lives at risk.

“Hopefully, hitting these offenders harder in the pocket will make them think twice before doing it again in the future.

“While greater sentences for excessive speeders are obviously a deterrent, the best deterrent of all is more effective enforcement.”

The guidelines will be used to sentence adult offenders in all magistrates’ courts in England and Wales from 24 April.