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To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of promoting the use of community-based sentences as a first option for offences that presently require custodial sentences, in order to ensure that mothers are not separated from their children.
It is important that there are robust community options available to sentencers so that vulnerable women with complex needs, including those with children, are only sent to prison when it is absolutely necessary.
We are developing a strategy for female offenders to improve outcomes for women in custody and in the community. As part of this work we are already investing £1 million seed funding between 2016 and 2020 to help local areas develop improved, multi-agency approaches to support female offenders in their area.
Sentences in individual cases are decided by the courts, who take into account guidelines issued by the independent Sentencing Council.
In February 2017, the Council issued its guideline “Imposition of Community and Custodial and Sentences”, which makes it clear that prison should be reserved for the most serious offences, and that custody should not be imposed where a community order could provide sufficient restriction on an offender’s liberty (by way of punishment) while addressing the rehabilitation of the offender to prevent future crime. The guideline also notes that for offenders on the cusp of custody, imprisonment should not be imposed where there would be an impact on dependants which would make a custodial sentence disproportionate to achieving the aims of sentencing.