Judicial Discretion Upheld in Sentencing Reductions for Informers: Analysis of Adam Royle & Ors v R Case Law

Citation: [2023] EWCA Crim 1311
Judgment on


The case of Adam Royle & Ors v R offers a comprehensive analysis of the principles associated with sentencing reductions for offenders who provide information and assistance to law enforcement authorities. This article will explore the legal principles highlighted in the case law summary, detailing their application within the context of the issues presented.

Key Facts

Adam Royle, alongside two other applicants referred to by pseudonyms AJC and BCQ, applied for leave to appeal against their sentences on the basis that the reductions made for assistance provided to the police were inadequate. The cases were linked by the common theme of sentencing reductions for informers, but otherwise unrelated. The applications raised issues related to the incentives provided for offenders to cooperate with law enforcement and the balance between such incentives and the informers’ risk of personal harm.

The legal principles discussed in this case law revolve around several key topics:

Reduction in Sentence for Assistance

Under s74 of the Sentencing Code and ongoing common law practice, informants are eligible for reduced sentences in recognition of the pragmatic necessity to incentivize criminals to aid in the apprehension and prosecution of other offenders, as established in R v P and Blackburn [2007] and described in point 9 of the judgment. The level of reduction is not fixed and should reflect the quality, quantity, and risk associated with the information provided, as per R v A and B [1999]. Noteworthy is that the extent of a reduction is typically between one-half and two-thirds, as was outlined in R v King (1985). Nonetheless, this should not be seen as a standard entitlement; rather, the court must make a fact-specific assessment, with reductions possibly deviating from the typical range, as demonstrated in cases like R v D [2010] and R v S [2019].

Timing of Assistance

The offender must offer assistance before being sentenced in the Crown Court, as further assistance after sentencing will generally not result in a reduced sentence on appeal, emphasized in R v A and B [1999].

Procedure for Sentencing Enhancement

The statutory procedure under s74 allows for a review of the sentence if the offender, pursuant to a written agreement, offers assistance after sentencing, as indicated by ss387 and ss388. This procedure is separate from the text procedure, where a police text outlines the assistance given without necessarily revealing the identity of the informer.

Factors Influencing Reduction Decision

Several factors may influence the decision regarding the appropriateness of a sentence reduction, as highlighted in points 33 and 34 of the judgment. This includes the nature and utility of the assistance provided, the risk posed to the informer, the crimes involved, and any financial rewards given to the informer.

Sentencing Transparency

Traditionally, the specific details of reductions for assistance have not been announced in court due to risks to the informer. However, under the statutory procedure, the court must state or record the greater sentence it would have imposed without the reduction. This principle is exemplified by the clarification in rule 28.1, focusing on the statutory procedure, and understood in the treatment of Royle’s publicized cooperation in the current case.


In Royle’s case, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, finding that the reduction of approximately 11% from the sentence that would otherwise have been appropriate was within judicial discretion. The judgments for the other two applicants, AJC and BCQ, were issued separately in closed sessions to protect their anonymity.


The case of Adam Royle & Ors v R reasserts the established principles guiding the discretion accorded to the judiciary in granting sentence reductions to informers. The court reiterated the importance of a pragmatic, fact-specific approach in determining the extent of the reduction attributable to the information and assistance an offender provides to law enforcement authorities. The case underscores the judiciary’s consistent adherence to protecting informers and incentivizing the provision of valuable assistance in the broader interest of justice.