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Will giving information to the police reduce my sentence?

In R v Adam Royle, AJC & BCQ [2023] EWCA 1311, the Court of Appeal was required to consider conjoined appeals against sentences imposed after each Appellant had given assistance to the police.

A judge considering sentencing a defendant who has provided information to the police has always had a discretion to reduce that sentence beyond any discount already envisaged by a plea of guilty. This has been described as a “longstanding and entirely pragmatic convention” (Sir Igor Judge in R v P and Blackburn [2007] EWCA Crim 2290) which was previously the exclusive province of the common law.

The “Text” Procedure

Under the common law, if a defendant provided assistance or information to the police he could expect that the police would provide the sentencing judge with a “text” prior to sentence. A “text” was the word used to describe a document setting out the extent and nature of the assistance provided to the police so the judge could decide on the appropriate discount.

Has the process changed?

Strictly speaking no, but there is now statutory procedure (not much used) for application of a reduction in sentence where an offender has provided assistance to the prosecution. This is contained in sections 74-75 and 387-391 Sentencing Act 2020. This statutory procedure requires the defendant to enter into a written agreement with the prosecution. If there is a breach of that agreement then the case can be sent back to the Crown Court for the reduced sentence to be substituted.

However, the position is that the statutory procedure has not superseded the common law procedure and both ‘options’ exist conterminously.

What is the effect of giving assistance to the police on sentence?

The sentencing judge should:

  1. Identify the appropriate starting point for the sentence following conviction (using the appropriate sentencing guidelines).
  2. Apply any aggravating and mitigating factors.
  3. Reduce the sentence as appropriate to reflect the assistance given to the police.
  4. Apply the appropriate discount for the guilty plea.

What is the extent of the reduction for providing the information?

In R v King [1985] 7 Cr App Rep 227 the Lord Chief Justice said: “The amount of that reduction, it seems to us, will vary, as [counsel] submitted to us, from about one half to two thirds reduction according to the circumstances outlined above”.

In P and Blackburn: “It is only in the most exceptional case that the appropriate level of reduction would exceed three quarters of the total sentence”.

What factors are relevant?

  1. The quality and quantity of the information.
  2. The period of time over which the information was provided.
  3. Whether it assisted the authorities in bringing others to justice, preventing or disrupting serious crime or recovering property.
  4. The degree of assistance (and specifically whether the defendant was prepared to give evidence).
  5. The degree of risk to which the provision of information exposed the individual or his family.
  6. The nature and extent of the crime.
  7. Whether the information was new.
  8. Whether the informer had been paid for the assistance.

Theoretical example

Carl is stopped in his car and found in possession of 1kg of cocaine. The police arrest him and seize his mobile phone. They search his flat where they seize some electronic scales, self-seal bags and a quantity of cash. He is conveyed to the police station where he gives a ‘no comment’ interview and is released under investigation pending analysis of the drugs and his mobile phone. After some delay, he is charged with possession of cocaine with intent to supply. Messages on his mobile phone suggest he has been selling cocaine for at least the past year or so in relatively small quantities to local people. This evidence together with the quantity of the drugs seized from him mean there is no viable defence to the charge.

Carl is at University and wants to obtain the lowest sentence possible which will hopefully allow him to resume his studies on his release. His solicitor contacts the police and states that he is willing to give information naming those who have supplied him with the drugs and other information about other local drug dealers. He provides this information to an independent police officer which is deemed to be helpful and reliable.

In order to obtain maximum credit (c33%) Carl pleads guilty at the Magistrates' Court. His case is committed to the Crown Court for sentence. The independent police officer provides a ‘text’ to the sentencing judge. The judge deems that the appropriate starting point (this being a lower end Category 2 case) is six years. He then reduces Carl’s sentence by a further half to reflect the assistance given to the police leaving him with three years. The judge then reduces the sentence further by one year to give him credit for his guilty plea. Carl is sentenced to two years imprisonment. The Judge makes no mention of the fact that he has provided assistance to the police. He is released from prison on electronic monitoring curfew having served 8 months of that sentence. He will remain on licence until the expiry of the two-year sentence.


Plainly, the reduction given by a sentencing judge is determined largely on the information they are provided about the quality of the assistance given. Nevertheless, there is potential for vastly reduced sentences in cases where alleged offenders are willing to provide assistance to the police and the Court of Appeal has given helpful guidance as to the potential extent of such reductions. Such decisions are obviously fraught with difficulty given the risks involved in exposing serious criminality.


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Legal Disclaimer

Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.