Appearance on Radio Northampton

I was invited last week to appear on the breakfast program for Radio Northampton regarding the recent changes in the magistrates’ court and crown court to victim impact statements.

I was interviewed by their correspondent James Tzanoudakis following the Government announcement that victim’s will now be able to make an oral statement in criminal courts regarding the impact of offending on them.  On a serious note, whilst this will empower victims by giving those that want it the chance to be heard in person, there is a real risk that defendants may face steeper sentences if a judge fails to take the emotion out of the sentence passed.

The impact on a victim is crucial.  I do not wish to undermine or diminish the impact that criminal offences can have upon the person directly affected and sometimes, their loved ones.  However, emotion has no place in a courtroom for a judge.  That way, we have consistent sentences across our courtrooms. 

That does not mean they do not take it into account.  Since 2001, all victims of crime have been given the opportunity (or least should be given the opportunity by the police officers) to make a formal written statement explaining how it has affected them.  The scheme extends this, but I hope it remains the responsibility of the public prosecutor to either read the written document in court or ensure the judge has as copy before passing sentence.