Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 31st August 2016

As many of you will appreciate, during the sentencing of a criminal case, the victims of crime and their families can feel particularly vulnerable. This is why in my role as Solicitor General, I am proud to be working on the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme, which allows anyone to ask for an offender’s Crown Court sentence to be reviewed if they believe it is too low. The ULS scheme is vital as it helps provide an additional safeguard for victims of crimes and their families, in the case of where sentencing errors may have been made.

My office recently published statistics for 2015 outlining the case which saw sentences lengthened under the ULs scheme. Out of the 713 requests we received, the Attorney General and I refereed 136 cases to the Court of Appeal. Of those, the Court ruled that 102 prison sentences should be lengthened. This is an extremely small proportion of the around 80,000 Crown Court sentences imposed each year, around one eight of a perfect in fact. These statistics demonstrate that, by and large, nationally the judiciary is getting it right when it comes to sentencing. However, they also prove that ULs scheme remains an important mechanism to help ensure sentences continue to be appropriately applied across the board and therefore uphold public confidence in our criminal justice system.

In other news, it is estimated that there are over 2,200 people here in Swindon living with dementia and our diagnosis rates are almost 62%. I was therefore pleased to have had the opportunity to miss with the Alzheimer’s Society here in Swindon to discuss with them how we can improve the treatment and care provided to people living with dementia and alzheimers, as well as raising awareness of the support they already offer.

The Alzheimer’s Society has recently launched the ‘Side by Side’ service to help tackle social isolation and loneliness. Volunteers in the service provide the essential companionship that too many individual suffering from alzheimers and dementia do not receive, and through this empower, encourage and help build the confidence of people with dementia. The service also supports people to retain or re-engage in hobbies and interests or to provide them with the opportunity to take up a range of new leisure pursuits. The Alzheimer’s Society has also recently launched the Dementia Adviser service. This offers information about all aspects of living with dementia and supports people to access services. If you would like any more information about the support the Alzheimer’s Society offers, please visit their website at www.alzheimers.org.uk/.

In further local news, Harold and Norman ‘John’ Starr, two of our town’s bravest brothers, will have their service to our country honoured when the Swindon Heritage Team unveils two commemorative blue plaques in the heart of our town. Harold Starr was able to escape from his burning Hurricane during the Battle of Britain in 1940, but was shot and killed by a Messerschmitt as he returned to earth with his parachute. Norman ‘John’ Starr was shot down and killed whilst piloting an Avro Anson over Dunkirk in 1945. The unveiling will take place from 3pm on Thursday, September 8.

Moving onto local events, the Prospect Hospice Annual Garden Fete will take place in the grounds of the Hospice this coming Saturday, 3rd September from 12:00 noon until 4pm. This fantastic local event promises something for everyone including stalls, games, refreshments and family entertainment and raises much-needed funds for the Hospice, which has supported our local community for the past thirty- six years. This year’s event is supported by non-charitable organisation, Rapid Relief Team (RRT), whose aim is to provide support to the local community in times of need, which includes providing support and care for the local emergency services at short notice when disasters occur like floods, fires, storms and accidents impact our local community. Further information about the Garden Fete, as well as more information about the valuable work that Prospect Hospice provide to the local community can be found by visiting http://www.prospect-hospice.net/Supporter/Fundraising-Events/fete