For those of you not familiar with the term I have used in the title, it is a phrase that is used to describe if people, or organisations in this case, are all working together and in the same direction – `on the same page` is another you may have heard said.
The police, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the various support services who help victims of crime, are all committed to protecting victims and preventing crime.
There is a huge focus on victim`s of crime and they expect that the public services who work for them will do their best to thoroughly investigate the crime they have reported and that proper justice is done.
It is not possible to change the past, so when a crime happens, the only way forward is to investigate it, find out who is responsible and ensure there is a conviction.
It is just as important for these public services to do their best to stop those responsible for committing crime from doing it again and affecting someone else`s life.
I know from my 26 years in the police that a lot is done to bring offenders to justice. My current role in the Police Investigation centre at Basingstoke has also put me in a position where I deal with victims of crime each day. I also work very closely with CPS lawyers to seek their advice on investigations and I know they do their level best to charge offenders with a crime to help the police in their work.
So far so good, however, it is the next step where the problem can arise, where the courts are pulled in a different direction on occasions.
Courts and the people who consider sentencing are of course impartial, so they will listen to the facts of the case as presented by the CPS and listen to witnesses. They will also hear the defence case and any witnesses that they may have to support their side of the events. Once the whole picture is known, then a decision is based on the facts of what is known and the magistrates of a judge will decide whether a person is guilty or not (in the case of a judge, they will allow jurors to do this and they will advise them on legal facts)
When a person is found guilty, then it becomes the responsibility of the court to decide the appropriate sentence. Again, the CPS and defence will put forward their respective cases to request a robust sentence in the case of the CPS, or a more linient one in the case of the defence.
The courts are given guidelines by the government and they will have what is called a `tarif` which are used to establish what sentence should be imposed.
It is not quite straight-forward, because a person`s previous convictions and the nature of the offence are taken into account. Their personal circumstances, such as employment, money, children and accommodation (if they have somewhere to stay) are all factors too. However, in cases which could result in a prison sentence, the courts are required in many cases to seek an alternative sentence if possible, such as a community sentence (unpaid work for example)
The reason behind this is largely driven by cost, where the Conservative Government made it part of their election manifesto in 2017 to close aging prisons and create new facilities which were more economic and better to in terms of conditions, for those sent to them.
Money has got in the way of this pledge already and the prison population has increased at a rate where prison space is over capacity and therefore the opportunity to close prisons and build new one`s will no longer happen during this Parliament.
One way of reducing cost and prison numbers to them move forward to closing some facilities and creating new ones is to reduce the prison population first and this is the main reason why so many offenders are not receiving custodial sentences where they may have done before.
The use of community orders and suspended sentences (where someone is sentenced to prison, but the sentence is suspended for a period of time, but activated if they re-offend) are increasingly being used.
Of those who re-offend under the various non-custodial sentences, there are victims of crime – new ones, whose lives are in many cases changed forever, where they are victims of personal attacks against themselves, or their property.
The interface between victims of crime is mainly down to the police. It is the CPS to a lesser extent and support services too, but it is hard for victims to understand why people are given a sentence which allows them to commit another crime, especially when the reality is that most criminals will commit quite a few crimes before being caught again, so the devastation they inflict on people is spread.
It is important for members of the public to understand the different directions the various organisations work in and the basic reasons why and hopefully with the improving state of the economy in the country will lead to the manifesto pledge of 2017 being fulfilled.