My Lords, just at the very moment when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, was admonishing the Government for wagging their finger at this Committee of your Lordships’ House for seeking to impose upon it that it should finish this evening, a message popped up on my phone saying that there is to be no dinner break tonight. Lest that be taken as a sign of this Government’s authoritarian tendencies in action, I assure the Committee that I am told that that has been agreed via the usual channels.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for introducing this interesting debate and all noble Lords for their contributions. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and the noble Lord, Lord German, addressed themselves to the fiendishly complex nature of sentencing. As is appreciated across the House, I think, the business of sentencing is in many respects a collaborative project, involving not only this Parliament but the Bench as well as the profession. On the topic of sentence inflation, referred to again by the noble Lord, Lord German, as well as by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, I have noted at least in the neighbouring jurisdiction that, as we monitor or study sentencing patterns, we see that, as some sentences over time appear to have extended, sentences in other areas appear to have diminished. I go back to the notion that it is not simply Parliament that sets these trends but the judges independently of Parliament—albeit I accept the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, that there must necessarily be some degree of influence on the Bench coming from this place and the devolved Administrations.
In his thoughtful contribution, the noble Lord, Lord Beith, described an incoherent approach, and made the point that there was too much emphasis on the retribution side of sentencing as opposed to the rehabilitative. In that regard, I note that the principles of sentencing as set out in statute are fivefold; as well as rehabilitation and the reduction of crime, they also include punishment, reparation and public protection.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, setting sail for Utopia, in a compassionate contribution, proposed or floated before your Lordships the possibility of an additional service dealing with the mentally ill, whose difficulties, problems and tortures are so often seen by the medical profession, hospital staff and the emergency services. I regret that I am not in a position to address that thoughtful contribution tonight. Perhaps a royal commission is needed.