Sentencing Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 23 November 2010.

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Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Conservative, Watford 2:30, 23 November 2010

When he expects to publish his proposals on the future of sentencing policy.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

We intend to publish a Green Paper setting out proposals on sentencing and rehabilitation in December.

Photo of Richard Harrington Richard Harrington Conservative, Watford

On a recent visit to the Hertfordshire probation trust in Watford, I was impressed by the efforts it has made and the success it has achieved in reducing reoffending rates. The staff told me, in particular, of their view that short-term prison sentences were detrimental to those efforts. Will the Secretary of State come to Watford to meet them, so that he can share those experiences?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I am grateful for that invitation; I have already received a letter. I shall do my best, although I am not quite sure when I will get to visit the probation trust. The Government are placing particular emphasis on rehabilitation and on reducing our quite appalling reoffending rates, as we have ever since my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice led for us on this matter in opposition. I accept that a great deal of good work is being done on the ground now and obviously we will have to build on it. I quite agree with my hon. Friend Richard Harrington about the ineffectiveness of some short sentences, because nothing whatever is done when people go out of the gate once they have finished their sentence, but I am quite clear that we cannot get rid of all short-term sentences. I have always believed that for a certain number of cases no alternative is reasonably practical for magistrates.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Treasury)

The crimes of child abduction, gross indecency with children, sexual activity with a child under 13, sexual assault of a female and sexual assault of a male have all attracted custodial sentences of six months or under in the past year. Will the Lord Chancellor give a commitment that under the sentencing review none of those crimes will be subject to community-based sentences, as he has proposed potentially in comments that he has made to date?

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I have no idea why the heart of our sentencing reform is described by sections of the press and some Members of Parliament as just getting rid of all short-term sentences and replacing them with community sentences. I have no doubt that there is an important role for community sentences, and we must make them more credible, more punitive and more effective-some of them already are. The important thing is that every case should receive the right sentence based on the facts and the offender in order to protect the public. That will be the underlying aim of the entire sentencing review.