Commissioner calls for more transparent sentencing
‘Victims’ Champion’, Commissioner David Lloyd wants courts to be more upfront and honest with victims of crime when sentencing offenders.
He said: “A 10-year sentence, for example, doesn’t mean 10 years in prison – it is likely to be only half this and a lot of people, not just their victims, are surprised by that. I’m not necessarily calling for increased prison sentences across the board – just more clarity and honesty that explains what a sentence means, in detail, before and during the court process.”  
Sentencing rules mean that if a prison sentence is imposed, the offender is eligible for release after just half the prison term has been served, subject to conditions and their behaviour in prison. 
Exceptions are when the judge sets a minimum tariff, which is usually only for very serious crimes.  
However, a prisoner’s release is ‘managed’ allowing them to rehabilitate back into normal life (with the aim of reducing the risk of reoffending) and, if they commit another crime, could go straight back to prison.  The Commissioner fully backs this rehabilitation process but objects to the lack of information about it.
He said: “I want to raise awareness among the wider public about the sentencing processes to reassure victims, and the general public, that criminals are not just being turfed out of prison to go straight back into a life of crime. Equally they need to know that a ‘sentence’ doesn’t necessarily mean being under lock and key for that whole time.”
The Commissioner is pushing for more transparent sentencing following meetings with victims of crime in Hertfordshire and, in particular, a survivor of a serious assault, Gary Brown who was attacked last year.
Gary was distraught when he discovered that the 12 year sentence his attacker received might only mean six years in prison. He said that he and his family are very fearful of the man’s release after such a short time.
Gary only found out how long his attacker would actually be behind bars right at the very end of the court process. He said: “It was such a shock and you are traumatised all over again, having been through everything.
“People should be pre-warned. When you hear or see in the news about someone being sentenced for a crime, you think ‘good, that’s how long that person will be inside’ and we feel safer but in most cases it’s not how long they will be in prison for – it is half that.  I’d like everyone involved in justice to make sure that victims are properly informed and it will definitely help if it was explained in news stories as well so everyone knows the real sentence.”
Commissioner Lloyd is now a member of Hertfordshire’s Criminal Justice Board where he will discuss ‘transparent sentencing’ with fellow members, including the Crown Prosecution Service, Probation and the Courts Service.
The Commissioner’s plans put victims at the heart of policing. In his Police and Crime Plan he calls for the highest standards of ‘customer’ care which compare with the very best in the private sector and retail businesses. He said: “I want to put victims of crime in the driving seat and enable them to decide how much support they need and how they want the Constabulary to keep in touch with them.”