We covered the case of Tayna Brookes the (now ex-) Chief Inspector who was jailed for 2½ years for frauds totalling £11,000 on 6th May 2014.
Well, she was released towards the end of September 2014 which caused ‘outrage’ at the Daily Mail offices (to be fair, quite a lot does) that she was released “just four months into a two-and-a-half-year jail sentence for fraud.” This was backed up by outrage from ‘Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley said: ‘It is outrageous that Tanya Brookes has been allowed out of prison so soon. It looks wrong.’’
So. Is this outrageous? Should you be outraged? Can early release provisions cause cancer? Is the system soft on coppers? How did she persuade the prison to let her out?
Just a few questions that enquiring minds need to know…
What’s happened here?
Firstly, the Mail got the facts wrong.
When assessing the sentence, we said “An immediate prison sentence is no surprise. This does seem longer than would be expected (I would have thought 12-18 months would have been sufficient) so I imagine that there would be an appeal. I doubt it will get very far as the Courts are not impressed by police officers who go bad, but Ms Brookes has nothing to lose.”
It seems that we were right about the length, but not charitable enough to the Court of Appeal who heard the appeal against sentence on 30th July 2014 and reduced the sentence to 18 months (1½ years).
So, when the Mail said the she was released “just four months into a two-and-a-half-year jail sentence for fraud” that is wrong. It was a ‘one-and-a-half-year’ sentence.
Still, even though the Mail got the sentence wrong, why was she released after 4 months of an 18 month sentence?
We have a fact sheet on sentencing and release provisions which gives a full overview, but in essence, if someone gets a ‘normal’ prison sentence, they have to serve half before being released. So that takes us to 9 months. This looks a bit less outrageous, but we’re still five months adrift.
The answer that Ms Brookes got a ‘tag’ (officially Home Detention Curfew). This provides that for certain prisoners, they can serve part of their sentence at home. The prisoner has to not pose a risk to the public (and they can’t be serving, or have previous for, certain offences such as sexual offences, or ones relating to knives).
You then take 135 days off the 9 month period (being the maximum allowable time) which gives 141 days. This is the period of time that had to be served before Ms Brookes, or anyone in her position, would have to serve before getting out on a tag.
This is about 4½ months. Given that Ms Brookes was sentenced on 6th May 2014, she would be eligible for a tag on or about 21st September 2014.
But the Mail said ‘4 months’ – what’s the difference? Probably the Mail rounding down for the sake of the story.
Ms Brookes gets to keep her pension. Or, as the Mail puts it, she “will even keep her generous pension.” Is that a problem? I have to say that I don’t particularly see it as one – she had paid into it and this would be, in effect, an additional (and huge) fine on her. If the shops want compensation, then they can sue her for it.
Anyway, it’s not my decision. The person who makes the decision, a Mr Kevin Hurley, decided not, saying (amongst other things) “I have considered all the facts in the case, including the appeal where the judge said he didn’t believe she had used her role as a police officer to facilitate her crimes.” and decided not to order any of her pension forfeit.
If the name of Kevin Hurley sounds familiar, then yes, it is the same Kevin Hurley Crime Commissioner, who is ‘outraged’ about Mr Brookes being released.
When you look at it, the story here is simple – Tanya Brookes is treated exactly as anyone in her position would be treated, no more and no less. Whether you like the underlying law is a different matter (and remember that it was passed by a Labour Government and, despite the thousands of opportunities since, no attempt has been made to revisit by either wings of the coalition).
What is, to my mind, the bigger story (or stories) is (1) that the Daily Mail is being deliberately inaccurate in order to make a point and, (2) Kevin Hurley the Police and Crime Commissioner does not seem to know the law properly.