Victims and defendants should automatically be given a transcript of the judge's sentencing remarks, the victims' commissioner has told the chief of HM Courts & Tribunals Service.
Dame Vera Baird QC, who was appointed in June, revealed today that she told HMCTS chief executive Susan Acland-Hood last month that she was concerned that victims and defendants were being given inadequate information about sentences handed down by the courts and what they meant in practice.
Publishing a note today of her 'useful meeting' with Acland-Hood, Baird said she was 'keen to advocate victims and defendants in the Crown courts automatically being given a transcript of the judge’s sentencing remark'. Baird 'acknowledged some of the practical difficulties to overcome but the clarity this might provide would assist everyone'.
In his 2017 government-commissioned race review, Labour MP David Lammy recommended that all sentencing remarks in the Crown Court should be published in audio and/or written form, which would 'build trust by making justice more transparent and comprehensible'. Sentencing remarks are published in written form only for cases regarded as being in the public interest.
The Ministry of Justice, responding to the Lammy review, said it was looking at increasing the availability of written sentencing remarks to victims and offenders, for specific offences in the Crown court, 'as providing written sentencing remarks in every case is costly'.
Last month's meeting was the first between Baird and Acland-Hood since Baird's appointment.
Special measures was discussed, with Baird expressing concern about the extent to which remote evidence centres were being offered to vulnerable and intimidated victims and the extent to which they were being used. 'The VC found that in the north east, the uptake had been slow and felt that more needed to be done to promote the use of remote links. She felt that judges were just not being asked to approve requests for remote evidence in cases where it was appropriate,' the meeting notes state.
Baird will appear before the House of Commons justice select committee tomorrow morning to discuss her priorities.