Crown Court sentencing remarks to be broadcast for first time.
Broadcast news channels will air judges’ sentencing remarks from the Crown Court for the first time tomorrow (28 July), following a change in the law by the Ministry of Justice.
In a statement, the Victims’ Commissioner welcomed the changes but cautioned that its implementation must be sensitive to victims’ needs.
The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said:
If we want to instil victim confidence in our justice system, transparency is key. Allowing cameras into courts to film sentencing remarks is a first step and an important milestone in achieving this. But its implementation requires careful consideration of the victim and their needs.
Judges will need to explain the reasoning behind their sentencing decision in a way that is comprehensible to the public – and not just legal professionals.
Sentencing decisions are complex and take into account various factors that we cannot expect victims to be familiar with. It is important that these are clearly spelled out in the sentencing remarks, and the victim is keenly aware of the realities around this.
Typically, only the headline details of a sentence are communicated to the public. This frequently does not detail the discounts from serving time on remand, wearing a tag, or similar to which the defendant is entitled. The result is that victims are often caught off-guard by the impending release of the defendant, who they assumed would be serving longer behind bars. This can crush a victim’s sense of justice and illusions of safety. It’s important that this is effectively mitigated – with responsible, clear and accessible communications from the judiciary.
- Ministry of Justice announcement (27 July)