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Up to 12,000 prisoners in England and Wales at risk of being released homeless will be offered temporary housing for up to 12 weeks as part of the Community Accommodation Service scheme. In 2019/20 (the last pre-COVID performance publication), there were approximately 12,000 prisoners (16%) released either rough sleeping or homeless. The Community Accommodation Scheme began in July 2021 in 5 of the 12 Probation Service regions: Yorkshire and Humber, Greater Manchester, the North West, the East of England and Kent, Surrey and Sussex. Wales was added in July 2022. The scheme is now being rolled out among the remaining…
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In a recent case, the Court of Appeal dealt with an appeal concerning an ex-police officer who served on a jury. When the prospective juror was summoned for jury service, he wrote to the court in the following terms: "After discussing my forthcoming juror duty with my wife, I realise that I was deluded in believing that I could come to an unbiased decision. Thirty years' service as a police officer (I retired ten years ago) has left me with the unshakeable belief that if both the investigating police officers and the Crown Prosecution Service feel that the evidence is…
Thursday, 13 July 2023 12:35

New Sentencing Guidelines

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Two new guidelines for sentencing people convicted of interfering with the administration of justice in England and Wales were published this week by the Sentencing Council following consultation. For the first time, judges and magistrates will have guidelines to assist in sentencing perverting the course of justice and witness intimidation offences. The new guidelines will enable the courts to take a consistent approach to sentencing these offences. There are currently no guidelines for the offence of perverting the course of justice and only limited guidance in the magistrates’ courts for witness intimidation. The new guidelines, which apply to adults only,…
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A massive police operation across Europe to disrupt serious crime, much of it being conducted across encrypted phone devices ('EncroChat') has been judged a significant success. Police investigators managed to intercept, share and analyse over 115 million allegedly criminal conversations by an estimated number of over 60,000 users.  User hotspots were prevalent in source and destination countries for the trade in illicit drugs and money laundering centres.  The information obtained by the French and Dutch authorities was shared with their counterparts in EU Member States and third countries, at their request. 
Tuesday, 04 July 2023 10:23

Poor Support for Prisoner Education

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Shortages of prison staff and a lack of training means not enough prisoners are able to improve their reading – according to a new report by Ofsted and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. In March 2022, Ofsted and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) published a joint review of reading education in prisons, which highlighted the barriers preventing prisoners from receiving the support they need and made several recommendations that were accepted by His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and prison governors. This week, a follow-up report to last year’s review finds that, while some progress has been made…
Wednesday, 21 June 2023 11:36

Trial of Sexual Offences

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The Law Commission is tasked with keeping the law under review and this week presented a consultation paper discussing significant reforms to the trial of sexual offences, including rape. Why was the review carried out? In its End-to-End Rape Review, the Government looked at the decline in conviction rates since 2016 – one outcome was its request to the Law Commission to examine the law, guidance, practice, and procedure in sexual offences prosecutions. The Commission stated: 'There are many complex reasons for the decline in conviction rates and this is not our focus. Instead, our focus is on how evidence…
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The Sentencing of young persons is one of the most complex judicial exercises, which must recognise the substantial differences between child and adult offending, particularly where an offender before the court has just reached majority age.  Research has repeatedly emphasised the pace of developmental milestones and often suggests that full maturity may only be reached after a person is 25 years of age. This challenges the general sentencing orthodoxy, which previously indicated that adults were always fully culpable for their actions. In a recent case, the Court of Appeal cautioned against simply reaching for an adult sentencing guideline and making…
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A pre-sentence report is advice given to the court following the facts of the case, expert risks and needs assessments, including an independent sentencing proposal and additional relevant information.  They must be as objective as possible and exist to assist the judiciary with sentencing. The number of pre-sentence reports written in England and Wales has decreased in recent years – from 211,494 in 2010 to 103,004 in 2019.   This was an area of concern in the 2020 white paper, A Smarter Approach to Sentencing, which stated that  “The purpose of a pre-sentence report (PSR) is to facilitate the administration of…
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The Sentencing Council has published 12 new and revised sentencing guidelines for offenders convicted of motoring offences in England and Wales. The new and revised guidelines, which apply to adults only, will come into effect on 1 July 2023. The changes include updated versions of six current guidelines that were published in 2008 and reflect new maximum sentences for some of the offences, including causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They have also published five new guidelines for offences created since the current guidelines were published. They…
Friday, 09 June 2023 11:34

Policing - A Crisis of Confidence?

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Many newspapers this week ran a headline in these or similar terms:  'Trust in police hanging by a thread, inspectorate says.' The impetus for this kind of comment was a damning report published by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Andy Cooke.  In the State of Policing 2022, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke has said: the police need to prioritise the issues that matter most to the public; forces are failing to get the basics right in investigation and responding to the public, and they need to concentrate on effective neighbourhood policing; and critical elements of the police service’s…
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On 3 March 2023, the Court of Appeal handed down a judgment in the case of Arie Ali. The case proved to be of some interest due to this remark made by Lord Justice Edis: 'On 24 February 2023, the Deputy Prime Minister wrote to the Lord Chief Justice saying:- "You will appreciate that operating very close to prison capacity will have consequences for the conditions in which prisoners are held. More of them will be in crowded conditions while in custody, have reduced access to rehabilitative programmes, as well as being further away from home (affecting the ability for…
Wednesday, 31 May 2023 13:02

Police Powers & The Common Law

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When considering police powers, particularly concerning search and seizure of property, we think first of powers derived from statute, which leads us to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. On occasion, however, statute does not provide police with effective powers, and the question arises as to whether their actions will be lawful if they act outside of a statutory framework. The answer to this was provided as long ago as 1969 when the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) commented: 'We have to consider, on the one hand, the freedom of the individual. His privacy and his possessions are not…
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Ipsos polling shows that more than 2 in 3 (67 %) of UK adults are worried about seeing content promoting or advocating self-harm while online. In 2021 the Law Commission recommended that individuals responsible for encouraging or assisting serious self-harm should be better held to account by criminal law. It is argued that once the sharing of posts encouraging self-harm is criminalised, social media companies will have to remove and limit people’s exposure to material that deliberately encourages somebody to injure themselves. This includes posts, videos, images and other messages that encourage, for example, the self-infliction of significant wounds. As…
Friday, 19 May 2023 11:28

An Offence of "Slow Walking"?

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It has been reported that Police in England and Wales are to be given new powers to tackle "disruptive" slow walking used by protesters to block roads. The new legislation would give officers more leeway to intervene when protesters attempt to block roads with slow marching. Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion are among the groups to have used the tactic. The government says the new law is required because the police need more clarity on when their existing powers can be used. BJ Harrington, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for public order and public safety, said:…
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