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Dear all
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Sentencing dilemmas

I attended my first meeting of the Sentencing Council on Friday, which prompted a few thoughts that I wanted to share:

First, it struck me that the Council is a very unusual institution. It is rare to bring together such a large group of very senior people (including senior and experienced judges, magistrates and legal practitioners, a chief constable and the head of Victims Support) and have them engage in policy development at a very detailed level. The amount of brain power devoted to what look like small specifics – for example on Friday a debate about the difference between “persistent” and “seriously persistent” – is quite extraordinary.

Second, it is clear that those small differences really do matter. As explained to me by Julian Roberts (Professor of Criminology at Oxford and a member of the council), small differences between terms in the guidelines are used and magnified by advocates in criminal cases to drive signficant changes at the margin in sentencing practice, with important consequences both for individuals and the system as a whole.

Third, the council spent a lot of time on a particular interesting and knotty issue: how to respond appropriately to corporate offences by the largest companies. This came up in the context of sentencing guidelines for fraud, environmental crimes and health and safety. The challenge is that major multinationals (say an oil or water company) have such vast balance sheets that only a collosal fine would have any impact at all. However, given that many of these types of offences are also committed by small firms, the sentencing framework can’t be entirely distorted to focus on accommodating those very few cases at the top end. A tricky balance that we will have to return to. Suggestions welcome!


A perspective from a director at a little distance

You know sometimes when you’re involved in something it seems constantly to be in the news. And you wonder if you’re just noticing it because you’re part of it.  Just me? Well anyway, criminal justice is constantly in the news even when you are away from it let me tell you. I am on leave at the moment because I have just adopted a little girl (adoption is often in the news too isn’t it?). But I was so impressed to hear that we – you – had achieved the major milestone of launching the competition to manage and rehabilitate offenders; barely a day goes by without sentencing hitting the headlines; and sticking with the brief I’ve just come from, I know of all the work under way on youth justice and am waiting with baited breath for the next installment on transforming custody. It does underline how much we – you – are doing and the impact we have on people’s lives. I won’t pretend I don’t itch a bit to be back in that world. But all in good time…

 Meanwhile my daughter and I have been settling into our new lives together. We loved Brockwell Park Lido over the summer, and being tourists both in London, and with my parents around Southport and Liverpool where I grew up. Incidentally, it’s fascinating renewing your perspective on the Houses of Parliament with a child who is laying eyes on it for the first time.

 Now that my little girl is back at school I have been honing my project management skills with all the different things you have to coordinate. Yes I know many of you have been doing it for years. But you need MPLA to juggle outdoor and indoor PE, workshops on mathletics, swimming, choir, toga sheet and fruit for the Roman feast …. I forgot the basketball kit yesterday, but I’m learning.  There are rival class bake sales to be dealt with (anyone watch the final of the bake off last night? I’m still not quite sure it has the buttery biscuit base of Masterchef. But I’m a late convert). And for my sins I’ve become the class rep.

 I enjoyed coming in to see Antonia recently, and catch up with colleagues. When I told my little girl I was coming into work she asked: “Will they remember you?” I hope so, I replied, but I have left a few jackets and shoes around the office to help them. (Apart from those trainers on the 8th floor.  How would I relaunch my running career without my running shoes Neil?).  It reminds me of the importance of keeping in touch, though, with colleagues on parental leave and career breaks. Anyway, you lot are in my thoughts, and there is loads I am hearing about to be proud of.  I look forward to seeing lots of you again soon.

Kevin Johnson from Barclays on using internal social media to build networks

“Yammer is massively levelling for the organisation – everyone has a voice.”
Here are Kevin’s top tips for kick-starting social media comms as a tool to share ideas and best practice:
Kevin Johnson

“We can make a real difference”

Lord McNally addressing CJ Group conference:

“My admiration and pride for what MoJ civil servants do is even stronger now after 3 1/2 years as a Minister. We have the capacity to do some great things in an area of policy which is fundamental to what makes a civilised society”.

 LM 241013


“Re-possession Blues”

Gavin Bell (and Neal Craig) on digital working in MoJ and how digital can drive transformation of business and help us understand more about our users. Original use of Bob Dylan to demonstrate need for joined up working and designing services around an individual..

Gavin Bell and Neil Craig CJG Conference

“No surprises”

PPS James Crawforth giving great tips and insights on working with Ministers: be honest, give private office a heads-up when needed, use contextual info..

James Crawforth CJG Conference

“Think about what Coalition issues will be”

Stephen Muers and Alex Dziedzan (Liberal Democrat SpAd) on working in Coalition. Great reflections from Stephen’s time in Cabinet Office, and Alex’s first months at MoJ

Stephen Muers and Alex Dziedzan CJG Conference

Front-line into Policy: Emily Thomas talking to CJ group conference

Inspirational stuff on helping young people in custody, and importance of recognising what works on a basic level: “every contact matters, and because it matters we need to do it well”.

Emily Thomas CJG Conference


Interesting fact from Emily Thomas (TR):”You’re less likely to die in a plane crash if the co-pilot is flying” (because the pilot will check what they’re doing). ie it’s ok to have your operational work checked by someone else on the job.

Charlie Pate from HMT talking about HMG spending outlook

Charlie Pate from HMT talking about HMG spending outlook

Charlie Pate (HMT): “the prize of Transforming Rehab will be the ongoing reductions in reoffending and reduced costs over the longer term”.

Interesting summary of relative spending cuts to depts in SR10/13:

Charlie Pate