Letter: A duty to speak on the victim's behalf

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The Independent Online
Sir: Professor Prins in his letter (31 March) criticises what he perceives to be an increasing tendency for senior police officers to comment upon sentences imposed by the courts.

When I joined the police service in the late Fifties we were taught that our role was to investigate offences and place offenders before the courts. At this stage our involvement ceased. This philosophy was fully accepted in the service at that time and in the following years because we had every confidence in the judicial system and in the manner in which it was administered.

However, it is not surprising in the present climate that senior police officers feel it their duty to comment on sentences being passed by the courts. Motorists are being fined pounds 500 for parking offences while serious offences against the person, including indecency, are being dealt with by means of non-custodial sentences, eg conditional discharge or community service. This is not always the fault of the judiciary but is often the result of misguided legislation introduced by Parliament.

There is an increasing need for someone to speak on behalf of the victim. It appears that at the moment the police service is the only agency that is prepared to undertake this task. Thus the service is unfortunately having to fulfil a need that should not be within its remit.

Yours faithfully,


Wythall, Worcestershire

31 March

The writer was Acting Assistant Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police (1988-89).