AS I write, it’s exactly a week since David Cameron asked me to join the Government as Solicitor General as part of his reshuffle. It’s an honour and privilege to have been appointed to this historic position, records for which date back to the 14th century.
Perhaps the most well-known incumbent was Spencer Perceval, who went on to be Prime Minister…but we’ll gloss over what happened to him in the end!
The Solicitor General is one of the senior law officers in England and Wales. Deputising for the Attorney General, it’s my job to provide legal advice to the Government and the Crown across a whole range of issues.
Our department also oversees the agencies at the very heart of our justice system, including the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office.
One of the vital responsibilities of the role is to consider whether a sentence passed at the end of a criminal trial is too low and should be sent to the Court of Appeal. This power to review what’s known as ‘unduly lenient’ sentences has become more widely publicised in recent years, particularly after broadcaster Stuart Hall had his sentence doubled last year as a result of the scheme.
Many people are surprised to discover that a formal review can be triggered in certain cases if just one member of the public complains about a sentence. Anyone can raise a concern that a sentence passed at the end of a Crown Court trial was too lenient.
The Attorney General and I then have 28 days to review the case and decide whether to refer it to the Court of Appeal. It’s then for the judges to decide whether or not the sentence should be increased.
I think this process lies at the very heart of our justice system, where the public must have faith in the decisions that are taken and be able to challenge them if they see fit. It’s just one part of the Solicitor General’s role, but it’s one that I will be paying very close attention to indeed.
While the new role is extremely challenging, my first priority will always be here in south Swindon, and this weekend it was business as usual.
On Saturday I was visiting residents to hear their concerns, and attended a number of events which went ahead despite the unpredictable weather we’re having this summer.
The Broad Green community day, the Children's Fete at Faringdon Park, a charity garden party in Wroughton to raise money for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance, and the Swindon RFC Sevens tournament were all extremely enjoyable and successful. Once again, they were showcasing our south Swindon community at its absolute best.