Non-custodial Sentences: Public Confidence Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Non-custodial Sentences: Public Confidence

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Monday 22nd January 2024

(6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the public’s confidence in non-custodial sentences.

Lord Bellamy Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bellamy) (Con)
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My Lords, it is important that the public have confidence in non-custodial sentences. The Government’s response to the Justice Select Committee’s report, Public Opinion and Understanding of Sentencing, was published last Thursday, 18 January. The Government are currently considering the Justice and Home Affairs Committee’s report of 28 December 2023, Cutting Crime: Better Community Sentences, and further note the Sentencing Council’s current consultation on revised guidelines for the imposition of community and custodial sentences.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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I thank the Minister for that Answer. I look forward to the Government’s response to that committee report, given that a 2019 report by the Sentencing Academy suggested that public attitudes to sentencing are, in part, due to a lack of evidence-based information. Our prisons are overcrowded and, overall, what we are doing is not working to break cycles of reoffending and change the lives of offenders, victims and communities. So what more can the Government do to raise evidence-based awareness of the effectiveness of sentences and, perhaps, share outcomes from the female offender strategy and women’s centres to promote public support for an alternative model for both male and female non-violent offenders?

Lord Bellamy Portrait Lord Bellamy (Con)
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My Lords, the Government accept that we can do more to increase public understanding of the working of the criminal justice system. We are committed to open justice: broadcasting judges’ sentencing remarks is a notable step forward; the further availability of transcripts of those remarks is another step that we can take. It is also important to publish sentencing and other information in an accessible form, on GOV.UK and on social media. We should be ambitious to improve the data that we already publish on criminal justice statistics. The Sentencing Council website has extensive information on how sentencing works, and a number of other steps can be taken to improve public knowledge of what is happening.