Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for our independent courts. When deciding what sentence to impose the courts take into account the circumstances of each case in line with any relevant sentencing guidelines issued by the independent Sentencing Council. The Council has a statutory duty to produce resource assessments when it publishes its draft guidelines, as well as an assessment each year of the impact of sentencing practice on the resources required for the provision of prison places, probation and youth justice services.
There is persuasive evidence that community sentences, in certain circumstances, are more effective in reducing reoffending than short custodial sentences. In the event that a community order is imposed, courts have the flexibility to select requirements that provide opportunities to address the specific issues which contribute to a risk of re-offending. For example, treatment requirements enable access to specialist help with mental health or substance misuse problems, whilst electronically monitored curfews can provide stability and structure in offenders’ lives while maintaining family ties, accommodation or employment.
Prior to sentencing, the National Probation Service will conduct an assessment of the offender, covering their circumstances and the reasons for their offending. NPS staff will then advise the court on the sentencing options which are likely to be most effective in managing risk and tackling the problems which are leading to offending. The NPS are taking steps to improve the quality of this advice by rolling out the Effective Proposal Tool, which helps NPS staff identify the interventions that match the assessed risks and rehabilitative needs in each case, and aims to be supported by detailed information on the range of locally available interventions and services. We recently consulted on what more we can do to improve the effectiveness of pre-sentence advice as part of the ‘Strengthening Probation, Improving Confidence’ consultation. The Government will publish its response in due course.