The sentencing powers of magistrates in England and Wales are to be increased in an attempt to tackle the backlog of cases which has built up during the Covid pandemic.

Previously, the maximum sentence which could be imposed by magistrates was six months. Any cases which required longer sentences had to be referred up to the Crown Court for sentencing. Under new measures announced in January 2022, magistrates will be able to hand down a one-year jail term.

The Ministry of Justice has estimated that the increase in magistrates’ powers could free up around 2,000 extra days of Crown Court time in a year, by enabling magistrates to sentence more serious cases of theft, assault and fraud.