Sentencing varies across the UK
Groups representing victims are to get a say on the sentences handed out to criminals under plans announced by David Blunkett.
The home secretary said he hoped the new Sentencing Guidelines Council would provide greater consistency of sentencing across the full range of offences.
Victims groups, the prison and probation services, the police and the legal profession are all to be represented on the council.
Members of the judiciary will make a majority on the panel which will be chaired by the most senior judge in England and Wales.
"The current system clearly needs reform," said Mr Blunkett.
"The sentencing framework is not a complete guide to the most suitable
sentence and relies too much upon individual discretion, leading, in some cases,
to considerable variations.
"As I spelled out on Wednesday when I announced the new principles for
sentencing in murder cases, for the public to have confidence in the criminal
justice system, it is essential that we have consistency in sentencing.
"People need to see justice being done in a way that commands their
confidence and respect."
Courts are to be required to take into account guidelines on sentencing issued by the council and will to have give an explanation for any departure from them.
Mr Blunkett told an audience of JPs at a meeting of the South Yorkshire
Magistrates' Association in Barnsley: "The Sentencing Guidelines Council will
create dialogue between the judiciary that pass sentences and the correctional
services that have to implement them.
"This will strengthen the council and ensure greater confidence than ever
before in the quality of the guidelines."
A Home Office spokeswoman said that by broadening the membership of the
council the government aimed "to create high quality guidelines that command the
respect of the judiciary and the wider public".
Mr Blunkett earlier this week announced tougher sentences for murder
Sentencing guidelines are currently issued by the Court of Appeal for more serious offences such as burglary, robbery or causing death by dangerous driving.
The Magistrates' Association also issues guidelines for summary offences.
The new council will receive advice from the Sentencing Advisory Panel which since 1999 has been advising the Court of Appeal.
The proposals for the Sentencing Guidelines Council suggest the lord chief justice, Lord Woolf, as chairman with seven members from the judiciary and five members representing victims and the other areas such as the policing, probation and sentencing.