Custodial and Community Sentences

Justice – in the House of Commons at on 9 January 2024.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

If he will make a comparative assessment of the effectiveness of short custodial sentences and sentences served in the community.

Photo of Gareth Bacon Gareth Bacon The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

A 2019 Ministry of Justice analysis of a matched cohort of 30,000 offenders shows that those serving sentences of immediate custody of less than 12 months reoffend more often than similar offenders serving a sentence in the community—55% of those sentenced to less than 12 months’ immediate custody were convicted in the following 12 months, which compares with 32% among those serving their sentence in the community.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

For years, I was a visitor at the Scrubs and at HMP Wandsworth. Persuade me that community sentences can be really tough.

Photo of Gareth Bacon Gareth Bacon The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I suggest that the outcome speaks for itself.

Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

Many, many more offenders will be serving their sentences in the community as a result of the measures in the upcoming Sentencing Bill. We all know that the Government have had to rush these measures out to deal with the prisons capacity crisis that they have created, but it is essential to recognise that these measures will rely heavily on a functioning probation service. With only one of the 33 probation delivery units inspected being rated as “good”, and all others being rated as “requiring improvement” or “inadequate,” what additional resources have been put in place to ensure that potentially dangerous criminals are being properly monitored?

Photo of Gareth Bacon Gareth Bacon The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We have recently increased the budget for probation by £155 million and ramped up recruitment, with an additional 4,000 staff recruited over the last period of time.

Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

That is a four-year-old announcement dressed up as something new and, given the extensive changes in the Sentencing Bill, I am afraid that it will just not cut it. Under the Conservatives, our vital probation service has been taken to the brink of collapse, and on current performance it simply cannot handle the additional pressure that these measures will bring and keep the public safe. So will the Minister commit to ensuring that the measures in the Bill will not come into effect until there is not one probation delivery unit still rated as “inadequate”?

Photo of Gareth Bacon Gareth Bacon The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. We will keep this under review as the Bill passes through the House, and we will make further announcements on it in due course.