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Fact-checking the headlines… The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

Mark Bagshaw, partner and head of our Criminal Defence department, goes behind the headlines relating to The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, to explain what’s the truth and what is just ‘fake news’.

Politicians of all sorts like to score points against their opposition and will use whatever material there is in whatever way they think will get the public on their side.. In my opinion, thus is the argument about Statues and Rape. Maybe it was the Government who first framed the new bill as getting very heavy on statue and memorial dis-respecters and maybe it is the opposition who are pretending to accept this as being the case.

One politician has created this headline in relation to a new Criminal justice bill;

Other headlines say:

This last headline could have equally accurately have read;

Life imprisonment for rape, when defacing statues starts at a Conditional Discharge/ Band B fine.

Both headlines are equally true, and unless the politicians creating these stories are completely naive, they know full well that both are true and that they are stirring up anger and scorn against their opponents under false pretences.

The facts

Criminal damage:

If the damage is valued at £5000 or less then the case has a maximum sentence of 3 months and the case has to remain at the Magistrates court. All other criminal damage cases can, if the magistrates choose, be sent to the Crown Court where the sentences can be up to 10 years.

Once at the Crown Court the Sentencing Guidelines start at a Band B fine for the least serious cases and a Starting point of 18 months for the most serious cases. The court does have a maximum sentence available to give of 10 years to an offender who commits criminal damage but this would be extremely rare .The damage caused under this offence includes damaging property valued at £100,000s or for example damaging a road bridge with the ensuing endangerment to life, hence the very high theoretical cap of 10 years. However the guidelines make it clear that the normal range of sentences for criminal damage is a Discharge to 4 years in custody.

Public opinion stirred up by press reports of people urinating on war memorials or daubing paint on statues, and later throwing them into rivers, means that many people think that there may be occasions when the sentence should be more than 3 months.  The Government is responding to this public opinion hoping to gain credit for its actions.

The Bill before Parliament at the moment will allow magistrates, at their discretion depending on the facts, to send the case to the Crown Court even if the damage does not meet the £5000 worth of damage.

The suggestion however that this Bill imposes a sentence of 10 years for damaging a statue is ‘ fake news’ and it is a pity that our politicians and commentators prefer to be  sensational rather than accurate.


There has been a lot said about sentences for rape, comparing this with sentences for criminal damage, and the figure of 5 years for rape is bandied about a great deal with cries for increasing the length of sentence.

The maximum sentence for rape is life imprisonment.

For many rape cases, a sentence starting point of 15 years is recommended but with a starting point of 5 years for the lowest category. In my experience, the lowest category is very rarely found to be the case and there are almost always factors which move the case into a higher bracket. For someone with a relevant criminal history the sentences would also be ratcheted up.


The comparison with 10 years for damaging a statue to receiving 5 years for rape is therefore a poor attempt to score political points by using misleading comparisons and distracts from the merits or lack of merits about holding statues and commemorative monuments in greater regard than their cash value. It is disappointing that UK politicians hold the UK public in so low regard that they find it easy to deliberately mislead us.

So for a more accurate comparison – The maximum sentence for Criminal damage is 10 years and the maximum sentence for Rape is life imprisonment.

About the Author

Mark Bagshaw has over 30 years’ experience in Criminal Law and has a wide breadth of experience in areas of serious crime, fraud, murder, rape and sexual assault, drug supply, and armed robbery.  


Posted in: criminal defence

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