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Reoffending

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th June 2011.

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Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering 2:30 pm, 28th June 2011

If he will take steps to ensure that judges and magistrates are informed of incidents of reoffending of each offender they have sentenced.

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

We have begun work to improve access to local criminal justice statistics. For example, criminal justice and sentencing statistics are now broken down to court level and are available online. In terms of individuals, pre-sentence reports provide the court with details of a defendant’s offending history and compliance with any previous sentences.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

That is not quite what I am after. Although it is important to have judicial independence, surely it is not beyond the wit of the Department that each judge and each magistrate should be given an annual report card on the effectiveness of their sentencing decisions. If they have given out a string of sentences and the convicts have reoffended regularly, that judge or magistrate will know that something is wrong with their approach.

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

As I said, we have begun work, and that is certainly an interesting suggestion. A massive amount of data would be involved in providing every judge and magistrate with full information about everybody they had ever sentenced, but I agree that we should consider the feasibility of doing so. I gather that someone in Seattle advocates that and has given interesting evidence to the Select Committee on Justice.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Labour, Cardiff South and Penarth

There is considerable evidence that judges do not know enough about what happens once they sentence prisoners and those sentences have been disposed of. Will the Justice Secretary do what he can to increase the experience obtained by judges of those disposals and will he ask the Sentencing Council to advise, with a particular focus on what works in preventing offending and reoffending?

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

The Sentencing Council is already under a duty to provide information about the effectiveness of sentencing practice and I am sure that it supplements that advice and information in every possible way. As I have said to my hon. Friend Mr Hollobone, we will certainly consider the feasibility of doing such a thing, as it would be valuable, but we are talking about a vast number of cases and not every judge will find it possible to find out exactly what happened in later years to everybody who appeared before him.