Justice Committee

Press notice No. 47 of Session 2007-08

16 October 2008 / For Immediate Release



The Government today published its response to the Justice Select Committee's major report on sentencing policy in England and Wales, 'Towards Effective Sentencing', published in July of this year. Commenting on the Government's response to the report's 67 recommendations, Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"The Government has accepted a number of our recommendations, for example recognising that short custodial sentences are not effective, and that the indeterminate IPP sentences must be better targeted. However, Ministers have failed to address the central problem identified in our report, which is the lack of a coherent sentencing policy and the failure to allocate resources so that the most appropriate and effective sentence can be given to each offender. This results in part from resources being pre-empted for inappropriate custodial sentences.

"We were not impressed by the Carter Review, or its conclusion that we build "mega-prisons" at vast expense as an answer to the growing prison population. We were promised a "national conversation" - what we seem to have instead is a fait accompli. What has been lacking in this debate and was lacking from the Carter Review is policy based on solid evidence: to us and many others the evidence shows that in terms of rehabilitation and reducing re-offending - that is, preventing more crime - prison simply isn't working.

"The Government seems to acknowledge this in part, but it is all very well to say that they have 'ensured that the courts have a full range of sentencing options at their disposal’: how can that be effective when the probation services simply do not have the resources to manage community sentences, or there are no places on a community programme that is part of the sentence? We welcome the steps the Government has taken to promote the use of alternatives to custody, but much of the extra funding that the Government has promised is being given with one hand and taken away with the other in expected "efficiency gains".

"The price of missing this opportunity for a fundamental review of sentencing policy and provision of custodial and non-custodial facilities in England and Wales will go far beyond even the huge expense of building more prison places, and of properly funding effective alternatives to prison. We will be returning to this issue when we report on our present inquiry into Justice Reinvestment." /ENDS

Notes to Editors:
1. The Government's response is published as a command paper and is available on the Ministry of Justice website.

2. The Government accepted some of the Committee’s recommendations, for example:

• that sentencers should be closely involved in the monitoring of compliance with community orders,

• that IPP sentences need to be targeted more effectively,

• that short custodial sentences are not usually effective,

• that NOMS should conduct a full regional audit of the provision of services and examine the current scale and nature of provision in comparison to the scale and nature of need

• that mental health services should be required to provide funding for diversion and liaison schemes with criminal justice agencies

3. The Committee's original report, Towards Effective Sentencing, is available on the Committee website at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmjust.htm

4. 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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