As it happens, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend’s opinion. Judges rightly reflected the fact that the background was a sudden, alarming outburst of public disorder and that they needed quickly to give firm and severe sentences, in some cases above the average normally imposed for the offence. That was a correct response to public need.
In the two years since it has been operating, the Sentencing Council has done much valuable work not only to promote consistency but in its more general role of seeking to improve public confidence in the criminal justice system. However, it has on occasion been criticised for both its general role in developing guidance for the courts and the contents of particular guidelines. The case that I want to make today, before listening to the views of the House, is that the current system is the right one and that these criticisms are largely misdirected. Contrary to what one sometimes reads in the newspapers, sentencing guidelines take a proportionate and sensible approach to the punishment of offenders, and one in which the public should have great confidence.