Victims' Groups to Get a Say on Sentencing

Article excerpt

Victims' groups would have a say on the sentencing of criminals under plans unveiled by Home Secretary David Blunkett yesterday.

He published details of the new Sentencing Guidelines Council and said it will provide 'clearer, more consistent sentences' for all types of offence.

In a radical change from the existing system for setting sentence guidelines, the council will include representatives of victims' groups, the police, probation, Prison Service and legal profession. They will, however, be outnumbered by judges on the panel which will be chaired by the most senior judge in England and Wales.

Mr Blunkett said: 'The current system clearly needs reform.

'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.'

All courts will be required to take guidelines issued by the council into account and to give reasons for departing from them. …