Oral Answers to Questions — Justice

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 17th February 2020.

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Photo of Naomi Long Naomi Long Alliance 2:45 pm, 17th February 2020

I thank the Member for his supplementary question, and I want to say a few things in answer to his question.

First, it is worth considering that there is no major disparity in sentencing guidance covering such offences and tariffs between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The tariff is the first point where someone may ask for parole to be considered, but it is not, if you like, automatic that the person will be released from custody.

Secondly, it is very difficult to do the comparative analysis that the Member is suggesting could take place, because, due to the small number of cases in Northern Ireland, very small differences in sentencing can skew the results. We will be considering whether or not we need to go for a more structured sentencing approach in light of what has come back from the consultation. However, when this was last considered, significant value-for-money concerns were raised in the responses. Those two things do need to be balanced.