Sentencing: Taking offences into consideration (TICs)

In what circumstances can offences be taken into consideration?

When a suspect is being interviewed at a police station and confesses to committing an offence, he may be invited by officers to admit to similar unresolved crimes, on the tacit understanding that he will not face further prosecution for these additional offences.

Instead, when he appears in court and pleads guilty to the original offence, they will be brought to the attention of the court before sentencing occurs. It is then up to court to decide whether to allow the TICs.

The judge will usually seek confirmation of the TICs from the defendant personally and not through counsel before sentencing him. If the offender has changed his mind about the TICs, his wishes are generally respected, although if this happens, it is up to the police to decide whether to bring fresh charges for these unresolved offences.

After admission of the TICs is made at the police station, a list containing all of the offences is prepared by the police. Then the offender has the opportunity to inspect and sign it in affirmation.

What type of offences can be taken into consideration?

Normally TICs will be offences of similar nature to the ones already appearing on the indictment. It is possible to ask for consideration of a different type of offences; however, there is no guarantee the judge will agree to take such into account.

A mere agreement by the prosecution and defence about a list of such offences is not binding upon the court and a charge should not be taken into consideration where the court feels the public interest requires it to be subject of a separate trial.

The court should also not take into consideration an offence which it is not empowered to try. For example, the Crown Court has no jurisdiction hearing or taking into consideration summary offences. Further, an offence is not to be taken into consideration if it is one where the court is required to disqualify the offender from driving or endorse his driving licence on conviction.

What is the effect of the TICs?

Firstly, the suspect will not be prosecuted for each individual offence. In fact, only the original offence for which he was being questioned will appear on the indictment when he appears in court. Any other offences to which he has acknowledged responsibility will be listed for the judge’s consideration on sentencing.

TICs will generally increase the sentence passed, however, the sentence will still remain significantly lower than if he had been charged and convicted of each offence separately. In passing sentence where there are TICs, the court may impose a maximum sentence of the total maximum for the offences of which the offender has been convicted. Therefore, for example, when a person is charged with two offences of theft the maximum sentence he can receive will be 14 years (seven years each) irrespective of the number of TICs. This is another element to be considered by the judge before deciding whether to take the offences into consideration or not.

Secondly the offender should not in future be prosecuted for the TICs. However, TICs do not have a statutory foundation and exist on the basis of practice. There is nothing to stop the police from investigating those admitted offences and charging the person separately after they have been taken into consideration. The situation is possible since TICs are not convictions and therefore, the rule against double jeopardy cannot come into effect and protect the offender. In practice, such an outcome is highly unlikely.

When assessing the impact of the TICs on the sentence to be passed, the court is likely to attach weight to the fact that the offender has assisted the police and helped clear up offences which might otherwise not have been brought to justice. The court is generally to have regard to the context of all offences when determining their effect on the sentence.

What is the benefit of admitting TICs?

The benefit for the offender of TICs is that it eliminates the risk of him later being prosecuted and convicted of those offences individually. Therefore, it protects him from the full sentence for the individual offences while allowing him to ‘clean the slate’ so that at the end of his sentence, having admitted their offences, he can put his past behind him.

TICs give victims closure and also save police, prosecution and court time and resources, as offences can be dealt with promptly without additional investigations and hearings.