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To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that victims of domestic violence, following the sentencing of an offender, receive (1) the precise sentence outcome, (2) accurate and relevant information about the possible impact of a sentence, and (3) the date of an offenders bail and prison release, to ensure that safeguarding mechanisms can be put in place; and what plans they have to enable victims of such violence to appeal sentencing decisions.
Under the Code of Practice for Victim’s of Crime, all victims have the right to be notified of the offender’s sentence and receive a short explanation about the meaning and effect of the sentence. We committed in the Victims Strategy published last year to review the process for informing victims of offenders’ sentences and what they mean and we are currently consulting on proposals for revising the code, which will be followed by a consultation on a draft revised code.
The statutory National Probation Service Victim Contact Scheme is available to victims of violent and sexual offences, where the offender receives a sentence of 12 months or more. The Scheme provides victims with information and advice about the criminal justice process – including explaining the sentence to them and ensuring that they are informed of the offender’s release.
In such cases, victims also have the statutory right to request conditions that can be attached to the offender's release licence. These can include a no contact condition, and an exclusion zone covering areas where the victim lives, works, or travels too frequently. The offender risks being recalled to prison should they breach any of their licence conditions.
Offenders who have committed an eligible sexual or violent offence and sentenced to 12 months or more imprisonment will be managed under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). Under MAPPA, the Prison, Probation and Police Services are required to work together to assess and manage the risks presented by such offenders. Thus, the MAPPA plan for managing the risk to such offenders must include measures to protect previous victims from further harm.
Additionally, Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARACs) develop strategies to help and protect domestic abuse victims at high risk of murder or serious harm. Agencies including the Police, providers of probation services, health and child protection, as well as Independent Domestic Violence Advisers, share information and develop actions to protect the victim.
In respect of appealing sentencing decisions, the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme enables anyone, including victims, the ability to ask the Attorney General to consider referring sentences for certain offences which he believes to be unduly lenient, to the Court of Appeal. The offences covered by the scheme are indictable only offences that are heard in the Crown Court, and certain triable either way offences when heard in the Crown Court. The scheme has a statutory 28-day time limit for referrals to be made. The scheme ensures there is a route for victims, their families, and the public, to question sentences imposed by the court for certain cases.
If a case is referred, it will be a matter for the Court of Appeal to determine whether the sentence should remain as it is, be increased, or whether guidance should be issued for future cases.