Recently I gave an update of our work with the Sentencing Council which, as you will see below, has been positively received and with a wide range of guidelines addressed. This is a really progressive outcome, and I am grateful to everyone who has helped get us this far.
During the whole process, I have always tried to manage expectations, as this is only the first stage. We now move on to focussing the statutory bodies on completing the task by gathering the evidence and prosecuting in a timely manner. I am most grateful to Bart O’Toole for kindly producing the Executive Summary below. The full consultation and legal text can be found in the complete consultation document (The RA is mentioned from page 14) Assault offences guidelines - Response to consultation (sentencingcouncil.org.uk)
The Sentencing Council’s New Guidelines on Assault
The RA was one of 77 respondents to the Sentencing Council’s invitation during 2020 to submit proposals for the review of its guidelines. The new guidelines published on 27th May come into force on 1st July. A large majority of submissions came from professional organisations; 5 were from charitable or voluntary organisations such as The RA. Our main submission was that any assault on any person, such as a referee, acting on duty in the exercise of lawful authority, should automatically be treated as a Category 1 or 2 offence, with higher sentences than Category 3 assaults. We believe that our submission has contributed to the recognition of a need for higher sentencing for the more serious assaults on referees.
The new guidelines provide a greater breakdown of assaults into different categories, with a significantly higher range of sentencing. For assaults occasioning actual bodily harm, the new Guideline creates three tiers of culpability (formerly two) and three degrees of seriousness (formerly two). The Council’s Response to the Consultation published one full paragraph of our submission verbatim.
The Council confirmed that an assault on a person providing a service to the public is already treated as an aggravating factor of the offence, and higher sentences are already possible within the existing guideline which provides for the sentence to be increased if: ’committed against those working in the public sector or providing a service to the public ……’ . This includes referees and many others providing public services both professionally and voluntarily. This was preserved in the new Guideline.
The Council’s Response added that this aggravating factor is very broad and captures any individual providing a service to the public, and the Council is confident that sentencers are able to apply this factor to the broad range of victims to whom it is relevant. The Sentencing Council’s General Guideline and expanded explanation of the factor further clarifies the wide scope of the factor’s application and states the following:
‘The factor reflects:
· the fact that people in public-facing roles are more exposed to the possibility of harm and are consequently more vulnerable, and/or
· the fact that someone is working in the public interest merits the additional protection of the courts. This applies whether the victim is a public or private employee or acting in a voluntary capacity.’
The RA is very grateful for the support given in our quest to improve the protection of match officials, and the level of letters from members to local MPs has been outstanding. Those LRAs that didn’t engage may wish to reflect on our purpose in supporting referees.
Building on the great relationships we enjoy at The FA, we have worked closely with them in a very productive partnership over the past couple of years to achieve amended FA Regulations which will provide stronger sanctions, and these were passed by FA Council last week in time for Season 2021/22.
Our work is not yet complete, but we are in a far better position as a refereeing family than before. We continue actively to lobby parliament and work further with The FA to bring about even more change to the benefit of you all. Thank you for your continued support.