Justice Committee

Press notice No. 11 of Session 2008-09

4 February 2009 / For Immediate Release


The Committee's report Towards Effective Sentencing will be debated in Westminster Hall on Thursday 5 February, from 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm.

The Committee's report was published on 22 July 2008 (Fifth Report of Session 2007-08, HC 184-I). The Government's reply was published as a Command Paper on 22 October 2008 (Cm 7476).

The debate is open to the public.

The Committee's report said serious failures of sentencing policy and its implementation had led to the current crisis of prison overcrowding and prevented sentencing options being effective. The Committee concluded that throughout its inquiry it saw that "failures in anticipating resource needs and providing appropriate resources for the implementation of policies stood in the way of results."

The Committee also commented that the Government's focus on huge public investment in building more prisons was a "risky strategy" that will not solve the fundamental and long-term issues. It found that Lord Carter's review of prisons, which included plans for new 'titan' prisons, was not based on evidence and was a missed opportunity to address the fundamental problems with custodial and non-custodial sentencing provision in England and Wales.

Other key findings were:

Whilst supporting the idea of the new indeterminate Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) sentences for dangerous offenders, the Committee was concerned that they were insufficiently targeted and inadequately resourced.

Excessive use of custody for vulnerable people and young offenders, with a failure of alternative provision in the community.

Dealing with low level offenders by community punishments rather than custodial sentences, as intended by the Criminal Justice Act 2003, had not worked due to a failure to consider practicalities and resource needs.

1. Committee membership is as follows: Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP (Chairman), Mr David Heath MP, Siân James MP, Daniel Kawczynski MP, Jessica Morden MP, Julie Morgan MP, Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, Robert Neill MP, Dr Nick Palmer MP, Linda Riordan MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Mr Andrew Turner MP, Mr Andrew Tyrie MP and Dr Alan Whitehead MP

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