We receive many letters suggesting that sentence levels for crimes of violence are too low. In fact, they are increasing. Individual sentences are a matter for the courts, but the Government understand the strength of public concern about alleged over-leniency and have responded to it with clause 29 of the Criminal Justice Bill.
Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the judges appear to take no notice of the guidelines that are set out? Are they not losing the public's confidence, and what more can be done?
When a well-publicised sentence appears to be over lenient, there should he a mechanism to deal with it. That is why we introduced clause 29. It is right to recognise that there has been a considerable response by the judiciary to the need to pass appropriate penalties for those convicted of violent crime. My hon. Friend may be interested to know that during the six months after the Billam judgment the proportion of rapists sentenced to over five years has almost doubled. Similarly, since 1980 the number of offenders sent to prison for robbery for more than five years has almost doubled. I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome that as a step in the right direction.