When someone is found guilty of a crime, the judge or magistrate will decide on a sentence. They will consider:
- the offender’s age
- if they have a criminal record
- if they pleaded guilty or not guilty
- whether there are aggravating or mitigating circumstances.
An aggravating circumstance is something that makes a crime more serious. A mitigating circumstance is something that may have affected an offender’s behaviour and could reduce their sentence.
The Sentencing Council gives judges and magistrates guidelines on sentencing.
Judges and magistrates will also look at case law to help them decide on sentencing. This is where appeals have been made in the past, which can influence similar cases.
It’s useful to know that you can give another Victim Personal Statement (VPS) at any time before sentencing. This will give you the chance to describe how the crime has impacted your life since the original VPS.
Anyone who feels a sentence is too low, has the right to ask the Attorney General’s Office to review the sentence. It’s important to act quickly and read all the available information if this is something you intend to do. You can only request a review within 28 calendar days of sentencing. We’re also aware that the Attorney General’s Office will only consider the request if they have enough time to review the information provided. This means that it’s best to submit your request well in advance of the deadline.
As a victim of a serious or violent crime, it can be distressing to hear that the offender may be let out of prison. It’s important that you know your rights with regard to parole.
Victim Contact Scheme (VCS)
If you’ve joined the VCS, it’s your right to:
- be told that a Parole Board hearing is happening
- ask the Parole Board to make certain protective licence conditions
- get an explanation if the conditions you’ve asked for aren’t included in the licence and have someone explain the Victim Personal Statement (VPS) and how it’s used
- if the offender is eligible for parole, you can write a VPS and have it sent to the parole board, or heard in person
- be told the reasons why a decision was made.
We understand that it’s difficult to go over what happened again. It’s your choice whether you make a VPS. If you decide to, we can support you to write it. Feedback shows that Parole Board members do take notice of what they hear from victims.
It’s important to know that decisions are made based on risk. The Parole Board must decide whether letting the offender out of jail causes any danger to the public.
Parole Board hearings can be held remotely or at the offender’s prison, which can be an unpleasant place to visit. We would advise you to take someone with you for support.