In my role as Solicitor General, I work weekly to review criminal sentences referred to me under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme. This scheme gives the victims of crime, their families and the public the opportunity to challenge sentences which they believe are too low.
A sentencing exercise is never an exact science and in the overwhelming majority of cases, judges get it right. The ULS scheme is there to allow adjustment to those sentences where an increase is warranted.
During the sentencing of a criminal case, the victims of crime and their families can feel particularly vulnerable. The ULS scheme is therefore an important mechanism to not only help ensure sentences continue to be appropriately applied across the board, but to also uphold public confidence in our criminal justice system. I have appeared in the Court of Appeal on many occasions to argue for higher sentences so I have invaluable first-hand knowledge of the system.
Over the weekend it was revealed that my office has helped more victims and their families get justice that ever before, after 141 criminals had their sentences increased under the ULS scheme in 2016.
32 criminals, including an arsonist, someone carrying a firearm and two men found guilty of child neglect, all had their community sentence quashed and replaced with an immediate custodial sentence. Of these, 17 sex offenders who originally avoided prison are now serving time behind bars. One rapist and one attempted murderer had their determinate sentence replaced with a life sentence and now can only be released with permission from the Parole Board.
I have been working for a long time on ways to improve local mental health services, so the Health Secretary’s announcement of plans to recruit 21,000 new mental health workers in England to help integrate mental and physical health services, was very welcome. It is vital that people with mental health conditions receive better and quicker treatment, and part of that means having the right NHS staff. We know we need to do more to attract, retain and support the mental health workforce of the future and that is why the Government is investing £1.3 billion to treat an extra one million people by 2021.
On Saturday I was pleased to join local Parish Councillors for Eldene, Zachary Hawson and Oladapo Ibitoye for a community litter pick. Thank you to the volunteers who came out and helped, together we managed to remove six full bags of litter, helping to make the public areas both cleaner and safer. During the litter pick, residents expressed concerns about fly tipping and graffiti, if you notice any in your local area, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can notify Swindon Borough Council on your behalf.
Earlier this week I also attend the remembrance service at the Cenotaph in Swindon for the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele / Third Battle of Ypres, where I laid a wreath in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Hundreds of Swindonians fought and died in the battle and it was an honour to be asked to attend by the Royal British Legion. Having visited Ypres and its war cemeteries myself on several occasions, this commemoration was particularly poignant.