Home Affairs Committee Press Notice

Session 2005-06 / PN No. 34


Commenting on a report released today, Tuesday 7th March 2006 on the Government's Draft Sentencing Guidelines for Robbery, John Denham, Chairman of the Committee, said: " The Committee has called for significant changes in the way robbers are sentenced, so that the public are protected and re-offending reduced."

Among other recommendations, the Commons Home  Affairs Committee say guideline  should require sentencers to make an explicit statement as to the levels of education and drug treatment that they expect  to be provided within prison as a necessary part of that sentence. The Committee consider it appropriate that the majority of adults convicted of robbery should be sentenced to custody, and it is all the more important  therefore that the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) takes further action to ensure the availability of drug treatment, education and work in prison. 

The Committee also recommends that sentencers should impose more community orders with drug rehabilitation requirements  in cases where non custodial sentences can be justified, and where the evidence indicates that drug treatment would make a significant difference to offending  behaviour.

Restorative processes offer victims can confront offenders with the consequences of their actions, and receive apologies and reparation. The draft guideline should be amended  provide that, where fear or risk is successfully reduced by restorative measures, this should be a mitigating factor.  In appropriate cases sentences might be deferred for restorative processes to take place: the Council should consider adding mention of such an option, which should also make clear that custodial sentences may well result in any case. If restorative measures have previously been used this may not be a suitable course of action.

In view of the number of fatal stabbings recently, some of them in the course of robbery, and of the understandable public disquiet caused, the Committee recommend that there should be an additional aggravating factor of premeditation shown by pre-arming. The Committee believes that courts are well able to identify where this is deliberate.

The Committee sees no reason why the "plea before venue" provisions - which would allow youth courts to take pleas and mitigation into account before deciding whether more serious cases needs to be tried in the Crown Court - should not be implemented immediately.

John Denham, Chairman of the Committee, continues: "It is very clear that robbery will usually deserve a custodial sentence. But we must also make sure that sentences are as effective as possible, both for adults and young people. We know that short sentences are not effective in preventing new crimes when the robber is released. In future, sentencers should be clear when offenders need drug treatment, work experience or education when they are in prison. And the National Offender Management System was must sure this is delivered. We reject the idea that young offenders from difficult backgrounds or who are immature should simply be given get lesser sentences as a result; rather we think it is important that all the causes of their offending are recognised and dealt with.

"The crime of robbery covers a whole variety of actions, from the very serious to the much less serious. The Committee believes there is no good excuse for carrying a weapon, let alone using it in a robbery. The Committee have urged tougher sentences imposed on those who take knives or other weapons with them when they go to commit a robbery. At the other end of the scale, there will be some minor cases where prison is necessary, but again the Committee wants the most effective use of drug treatment as part of community sentencing. Restorative justice - where the victim chooses to make the offender face up to what they have done, and to make recompense - has also proven to be effective in some cases. It should never be used as a way of avoiding custody, although it should be possible to defer custody in minor cases to see if restorative justice can work.

1. The Home Affairs Committee has decided to review draft guidelines produced by the Sentencing Guidelines Council. In its first report to the House on a draft guideline in November 2004, the Committee commented: "We do not envisage our function as being to give or withhold formal approval of each guideline, or to provide extended analysis of its contents, but to focus on particular issues of concern or interest to Parliament or the public. Where we consider that a draft guideline raises major issues, we will make a report to the House on these. In the case of other guidelines we will supply our comments to the Council in the form of a letter from the Chairman, which we will also publish on our website."

2. The Report will be available on the Committee's website:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmhaff/947/94702.htm at 0001 on Tuesday 7 March. Bound printed copies of the Report will be obtainable from TSO outlets (tel: 0845 702 3474; email: books.order@theso.co.uk) and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890; email: bookshop@parliament.uk) on Tuesday 7 March by quoting the appropriate HC number.

3. The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005. Its terms of reference are to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Home Office and its associated public bodies; and the administration and expenditure of the Attorney General's Office, the Treasury Solicitor's Department, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office (but excluding individual cases and appointments and advice given within government by Law Officers). The Members are:
Rt Hon John Denham (Chairman) (Lab) (Southampton Itchen)
Mr Richard Benyon (Con) (Newbury)
Mr Jeremy Browne (Lib Dem) (Taunton)
Colin Burgon (Lab) (Elmet)
Mr James Clappison (Con) (Hertsmere)
Mrs Ann Cryer (Lab) (Keighley)
Mrs Janet Dean (Lab) (Burton)
Nick Harvey (Lib Dem) (North Devon)
Steve Mccabe (Lab) (Birmingham Hall Green)
Mr Shahid Malik (Lab) (Dewsbury)
Gwyn Prosser (Lab) (Dover)
Mr Richard Spring (Con) (West Suffolk)
Mr Gary Streeter (Con) (South West Devon)
Mr David Winnick (Lab) (Walsall North)

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