Prison Sentences: EU Countries

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 13th May 2019.

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Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what comparative assessment he has made of the levels of incarceration in the UK and other European countries; and what steps his Department is taking to prevent unnecessary incarcerations.

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice does not publish information on rates of imprisonment in England and Wales as part of its statistical releases.

However, the Department is a contributor to the Council of Europe’s “SPACE I” annual report, which provides an overview of the use of custodial sanctions and measures in the Member States of the Council of Europe, including rates of imprisonment for each Member State. The latest report “SPACE I – 2018” can be found at:

By law, courts in England and Wales are required to be satisfied that the offence committed is so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified. In the event a custodial sentence is imposed, the law also requires that it should be for the shortest time possible, commensurate with the seriousness of the offence.

We are exploring options to restrict the use of short custodial sentences, but have not at this stage reached any conclusions. There is persuasive evidence showing that they do not work in terms of rehabilitation and helping some offenders turn their backs on crime, and that community sentences, in certain circumstances, are actually more effective in reducing reoffending. The MoJ study ‘The impact of short custodial sentences, community orders and suspended sentence orders on re-offending’ published in 2015 found that over a 1-year follow up period, a higher proportion of people re-offended having been sentenced to custody of under 12 months without supervision on release than other similar people given community orders.

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