Sentencing guidelines and Parliament: building a bridge - Justice Committee Contents


4  The crucial elements for scrutiny

Cost and relative effectiveness of sentencing

47. The Sentencing Guidelines Council is required to have regard when framing sentencing guidelines to the cost of different sentences and their relative effectiveness in preventing re-offending. The first problem this presents is that preventing re-offending is only part of the five purposes of sentencing set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, and that these purposes themselves are consistent neither with each other nor with sentencing guidelines.

SEEKING A CONSENSUS AS TO THE PURPOSE OF SENTENCING

48. The Criminal Justice Act 2003, described by the Ministry of Justice as "the principal sentencing statute,"[65] sets out five purposes of sentencing, to which any court dealing with an offender must have regard:

a)  the punishment of offenders,

b)  the reduction of crime (including its reduction by deterrence),

c)  the reform and rehabilitation of offenders,

d)  the protection of the public, and

e)  the making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by their offences.[66]

We note that these five purposes of sentencing are not the same as those matters the Sentencing Guidelines Council is required to consider when drawing up sentencing guidelines.

49. Professor Ashworth raised difficulties with those five purposes:

    "I think it was a mistake to put them where they are, for two reasons. First of all, because they are contradictory I think it is very difficult to pursue two of them in particular cases, and I think giving the court the choice rather than having a hierarchy of purposes is a mistake in itself, but, more importantly, I cannot see how it is consistent with the idea of sentencing guidelines because if you have sentencing guidelines you cannot possibly have judges or magistrates deciding which purpose they will pursue today."[67]

Professor Ashworth is supported by David Faulkner, Senior Research Associate at the University of Oxford and a former senior home office civil servant, who commented: "there is no recognition of the differences between them [the purposes of sentencing set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003] or of the implications of those differences"[68]. Professor Mike Hough struggled with the logic of the five purposes:

    "They also bear a very strange relationship to each other in that there is a sort of logical relationship between punishment as a purpose and punishment as a process of justice. Criminal law implies punishment. The other four objectives are things that one might pursue within the envelope of punishment."[69]

50. The Government also seems to struggle with the five purposes of sentencing it set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, in a speech accompanying a policy statement as to how the Government deals with offenders, stated "We should not shy away from the fact that the sentences of the court are first and foremost for the punishment of those who have broken the law".[70] This may suggest that the purposes of sentencing set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 were meant to be in a hierarchy, but the title of the Government's policy statement, Punishment and Reform, takes the first and third in the list.[71] This confusion over the purposes of sentencing may reflect confusion over the purposes of the criminal justice system as a whole.

51. The lack of consensus as to the principles of sentencing leads to a lack of consensus in application. Professor Hough told the Committee: "In terms of sentencing principles, sentencers all seem to be highly attached to proportionality".[72] Thus sentencers prioritise the punishment purpose, in the principle of proportionality, that the punishment should fit the crime. Rt Hon Lord Justice Laws embodied this perception when he described the courts' "paradigm function in sentencing, which is the execution of retributive justice."[73] The Magistrates' Association similarly suggested that while the aim of punishment is a constant in sentencing, others may be less integral: "Not all sentences are designed to reform—that is one of the purposes of sentencing—there is always a punishment element."[74]

52. The prioritisation of the aim of punishment by sentencers may reflect the concept that the punishment of sentencing has a different function than other aims, for example rehabilitation. David Faulkner split the purposes of sentencing into three:

  • first the declaratory and retributive, to condemn an individual's behaviour and to punish, the test of whether justice has been done;
  • second the utilitarian and instrumental purpose, to protect the public and reduce crime through for example imprisonment to control the offender and rehabilitation to prevent future crime;
  • the third the reparative, to repair the damage done.

He comments "it has historically been the practice, to see the court as concerned with the retributive function […] and the executive, principally the prison and probation services, as responsible for the instrumental function."[75] On such as basis, the court's key purpose would be to send a signal in a way the public understand that the individual has been found to have done wrong. However, how a sentence is carried out (for example through imprisonment or community) would be determined on the basis of instrumental purposes. This will be discussed further in Justice Reinvestment.

53. Meanwhile other actors in the criminal justice system prioritise different purposes of sentencing. Victim Support note the value of consistency; something the Sentencing Guidelines Council has to have regard to when drawing up sentencing guidelines, though it is not a purpose of sentencing:

    "we pick up that they [victims] would like to see some consistency so the expectations can be real and can be managed, some transparency around the system, explanations, where they are due and available, as to why certain sentences were passed and others not, and, I suppose, an overwhelming need for some sense of fairness."[76]

Victim Support also emphasised the importance of rehabilitation:

    "what we absolutely know around victims, and that is that what they want, apart from the impossible, which is to be put back in time to where it did not happen in the first place, is for it not to happen again".[77]

Nacro considered the potential conflicts between aims of reducing re-offending and of proportionality: "if we simply were to look at it from the point of view of what would reduce offending without any element of proportionality, then it would not be a system of justice."[78] Nacro concluded that reducing re-offending should take primacy:

    "it does not do anyone any good to sentence an offender to a penalty that is more likely to result in re-offending and, therefore, more likely to result in distress and loss to future victims, simply because the court is asking: what is the sentence that will punish the offender sufficiently?"[79]

54. In contrast to sentencers' prioritisation of the aim of punishment, achieving the reparative purpose of sentencing appears to be hampered by ineffective systems and inadequate resources. Victim Support suggest that the systems for compensation actually made the experience of crime worse:

    "Because of the people that we are seeking to get the compensation from, it is very difficult to be able to get the amount of money that actually equates to what we might call reparation, certainly not restitution. I think to some extent as well it can, in its current form, prolong the experience of the crime, because piecemeal payments over a period of time merely prolong the agony to some extent, and sometimes for very small sums of money, and there is a burden currently on the victim to decide whether to pursue that option or not."[80]

Helen Leney, Acting Manager of the restorative justice service Thames Valley Statutory Adult Restoration Service (TVStars), suggests that restorative justice approaches may be a way to achieve the reparative aim of sentencing: "Restorative justice looks at what harm has been caused and how that harm can be repaired".[81] Victim Support supported the notion of restorative justice but emphasised that it must be an offer, not an imposition, on the victim and that the offender must also be willing for it to be a positive experience for the victim.[82] Whilst incorporating restorative justice into a sentencing system presents challenges, these do not seem insurmountable; Helen Leney quoted a letter from the Bench Chair of her local Magistrates which said:

    "As sentencers in the Thames Valley, we are extremely concerned that we are about to lose a much valued option in our courts to make restorative justice a specified active requirement also, as a consequence, denying the wishes of victims in a significant number of cases."[83]

A greater challenge may be in providing restorative justice services consistently across the country: "there is absolutely no reason why restorative justice cannot be rolled out across the whole country, indeed I think it should be, but it has got to be funded, and that is a big problem."[84]

55. There are doubts that some of these five purposes of sentencing can be achieved at all. We heard evidence from RoadPeace, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on sentencing offences of causing death by driving; all of these doubted that sentencing had a general deterrent effect in death by driving cases. RoadPeace commented: "We do not think that increasing the sentences for causing death by driving has any deterrent effect. No-one expects to be in a fatal crash let alone responsible for one."[85] RoSPA concurred:

    "I think sentencing does send out a message about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. I do not believe that it provides any sort of road safety deterrent. I do not believe that it affects the behaviour of the driving public. […]I do not think we should kid ourselves that if we see very consistent, strict sentences being handed down for people who kill on the road that that is going to result in an improvement in driver behaviour."[86]

One possible explanation is that prevention of crime (including its prevention by deterrence) is not a purpose of sentencing with regard to these specific offences. The CPS considered the characteristics of the offenders for example: "It may be an appalling piece of driving but they are frequently people who do not have a lengthy criminal record."[87] Therefore, rather than deterrence, the sentence might involve "a large element of condemnation".[88] This might therefore support the concept that sentencers choose from the different purposes of sentencing depending on the circumstances of the case, but this then comes into conflict with those matters which sentencing guidelines should have regard to, including consistency and effectiveness in preventing re-offending.

56. There are also doubts about whether particular types of sentencing can meet the purposes set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003. We heard criticisms in particular about short custodial sentences (usually taken to mean sentences of imprisonment of 12 months or less). Paul Cavadino, Chief Executive of Nacro, said:

    "I personally cannot see a great deal of point in short prison sentences. They have a containment effect which is very limited because the period is short, they are not long enough for any serious rehabilitation attempt, they are long enough often for an offender to lose their home or lose their job, if they have got one, which makes them more likely to reoffend, and short sentence prisoners have by far the highest reconviction rate […]. It seems to me that there is little point in repeatedly using short prison sentences which imprison people in overcrowded prisons and neither rehabilitate them nor deter them."[89]

Nicola Padfield, from the University of Cambridge, meanwhile questioned whether short custodial sentences achieved any aims of sentencing:

    "We still live in a rather tedious sentencing world of custody, community penalty, fine, as though a short custodial sentence is always a 'tougher' penalty than a community penalty however tough. We have to do an awful lot of thinking in terms of creating better alternatives for sentencing which involve not thinking that once you have crossed the custody threshold we are into the tougher sentences; actually those short custodial sentences we all know are ineffective on most measures of effectiveness, whatever your measures of effectiveness are."[90]

On this basis, if sentencing guidelines are framed with regard to the relative effectiveness of different sentences, we would expect to see few guideline proposals for short custodial sentences.

57. The confusion and lack of clarity as to the purposes of sentencing makes it difficult to consider sentencing in terms of effectiveness, as it is not clear what takes precedence in terms of effective sentencing. There are also consequences in terms of the lack of public confidence. Ian Loader, Oxford University, commented:

    "The crisis of the penal system in England and Wales is testament to the fact that it lacks a coherent public philosophy, a story about why and whom, what way and how much, we punish that can really connect with public thinking about crime and society."[91]

We consider public confidence in sentencing in more detail below.

THE COST OF SENTENCING

58. The Sentencing Guidelines Council is required to have regard to "the cost of different sentences and their relative effectiveness in preventing re-offending" when framing sentencing guidelines.[92] We have seen above the difficulties that arise in considering the effectiveness of different sentences. Our experience with sentencing guidelines suggests that considering the costs of different sentences is also problematic.

59. Questions about costs and sentencing are controversial ones. The debate over the merits of a new sentencing body was originally motivated by a desire to manage the size, and therefore cost, of the prison population (and other correctional resources such as probation services). Accordingly, when asked in January 2008 what policies were in place to reduce overcrowding in prisons, the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor stated:

    "We have established a working group chaired by Rt Hon Lord Justice Gage which will look at Lord Carter of Coles' proposals for a Sentencing Commission in England and Wales. Experience from other jurisdictions suggests that such an approach can mean the drivers behind the prison population can be addressed and managed in a transparent, consistent and predictable manner."[93]

Yet, a year later, the Lord Chancellor contradicted this, stating: "The creation of a Sentencing Council has no direct impact on the prison population. This is because there is no requirement in the Coroners and Justice Bill for a sentencer in an individual case to have regard to resources."[94] The change in position may be motivated by concerns over one part of the debate about costs and sentencing—whether an individual judge should have to consider availability of resources when determining the appropriate sentence in an individual case.

60. Rt Hon Lord Judge is unequivocal: "It would be absolutely catastrophic if any individual sentence had to be tailored to resources."[95] Nicola Padfield, University of Cambridge, held a similar point of view, saying: "Nobody could seriously be suggesting that judges and magistrates should have a cap on the number of people they could send to prison."[96] However, there have been questions about whether lack of resources are in reality, if not as a matter of policy, affecting sentencing; in March 2008 Napo (the Trade Union and Professional Association for Family Court and Probation Staff) reported: "It is clear from this study that restrictions are being placed on sentencers across the country as to what conditions they can add to community orders."[97] This supports what John Thornhill, Magistrates' Association, told the Committee a year earlier:

    "It is clear that one of the problems is […] a lack of programmes available. Magistrates would use community based penalties with programmes that are tailored to the individual needs of offenders. […] but very often we do not have programmes which adequately address their needs. […] That is a matter of resourcing […] we would use a wider range of community based penalties so that we can tailor them to the individual, but they are not there, and that is one of the difficulties."[98]

61. There is however a completely separate question about whether decisions as to sentencing policy and the overall sentencing framework should be made with an awareness of what different sentences cost. Sentencers themselves are amongst those calling for a debate on this matter. Rt Hon Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, then Lord Chief Justice, has stated: "The scale of sentences is now largely determined by Parliament. Where within that scale the facts of a particular offence fall is the judge's task. Parliament should, when altering that scale, have regard to the resource implications of the changes that are proposed."[99] Rt Hon Lord Judge similarly commented:

    "There is of course a public interest in the use of resources. You are responsible for that. […] You, as Parliament, [should be addressing] the fact that when you introduce and agree to legislative change relating to sentencing, somebody needs to work out what the cost is likely to be. Somebody needs to say 'This will cost us two new hospitals, five new schools, proper armour for our servicemen'."[100]

62. Professor Hough and Professor Ashworth also saw benefits in considering the costs of sentencing. Professor Hough for example pondered:

    "It is certainly not desirable for there to be a completely unplanned and uncontrolled upward drift in sentencing, which is what we saw between 1991 and 2003. I think some considered view of whether we are spending enough on particular forms of punishment is better than nothing at all, which is what has characterised the period up to now."[101]

Professor Ashworth similarly considered: "the idea that there is economic pressure on sentencing exerts some beneficial effect if it makes people think."[102] The type of thinking Professor Ashworth was talking about was in relation to "priorities" and taking a look at groups of offences and considering whether they are "sentenced higher than they should be relative to others."[103]

63. The Sentencing Commission Working Group would have been an opportunity to consider whether and how the overall legislative framework for sentencing should take into account costs. It stated:

    "the question of whether or not the overall sentencing framework should be tied to financial resources is a political issue. How Parliament's intentions on criminal justice policy should be kept consistent with the capacity of the prison and probation services to deal with sentenced offenders is pre-eminently a political matter."[104]

Nevertheless, the Working Group made a number of recommendations for a new sentencing body to provide resource assessments of sentencing guidelines and legislative or policy proposals from Government that would affect the capacity of prison and probation services. The Coroners and Justice Bill makes provision on the basis of these recommendations. The Working Group also recommended that "Parliament should express its intentions with regard to correctional resources at regular intervals."[105]

64. Rt Hon Lord Woolf suggested a slightly different approach, whereby sentencers would be able to determine different sentences that would meet the appropriate aims, and then take cost into consideration as to which of these should be imposed: "The judge should know how much the sentences that he is imposing will cost the public. That is a very relevant matter. If there is a suitable, cheaper option he should choose it."[106]

65. Implementing such an approach would require dealing with limitations in available data. Professor Ashworth summarised the difficulties: "The effectiveness of sentencing is something we need to know about, but again we do not have reliable figures. Even on cost it is very difficult to get absolute comparisons which everyone agrees with. In terms of effectiveness, if we are talking about re-convictions over a given period, we do not really have up-to-date information on that which compares like with like."[107]

66. The five aims of sentencing set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 are neither internally coherent nor consistently applied. It is not clear whether the aims are intended to be a hierarchical list or a menu to be combined differently in different cases. It is not clear how the purposes of sentencing relate to, or should be reflected in, sentencing guidelines. As a result, the public, criminal justice organisations, victims, sentencers and the Government all have different expectations as to what sentencing is trying to achieve—suggesting that someone, inevitably, will be disappointed.

67. It is set out in statute that sentencing guidelines should be drawn up with regard to the cost of different sentences and their relative effectiveness. This does not conflict with the duty of the sentencer to determine the sentence appropriate to the individual case. We acknowledge that this is made difficult by the lack of clarity as to the purposes of sentencing, because there is no clear and consensual standard as to how effectiveness should be determined. However, this aspect must have greater prominence in the development of sentencing guidelines. We will therefore prioritise it for scrutiny.

Public confidence in sentencing

68. The Sentencing Guidelines Council is also required to have regard to the need to promote public confidence in the criminal justice system when framing guidelines. The lack of clarity as to what sentencing is trying to achieve is one issue that may hinder public confidence in sentencing. Our experience of reviewing sentencing guidelines has also suggested that public confidence may suffer from a lack of authoritative, contextualised information about sentencing.

THE SENTENCING KNOWLEDGE GAP

69. Professor Mike Hough, King's College London, identified a "substantial knowledge gap" in public knowledge about sentencing.[108] He observed: "People think you do not get sent to prison for lots of offences—and you do."[109] He described the difference in perception and reality in relation to sentences for causing death by dangerous driving: "If you ask people what they thought the offender would get, 31% said prison, and in reality the best estimate is 'pretty certain prison': 95% of people convicted of that offence get a prison sentence."[110]

70. Professor Hough thought that the knowledge gap about sentencing was part of more general misconception about crime trends. He stated that two-thirds of people in England and Wales believe that crime is going up and that this proportion has remained consistent although levels and types of crime have fluctuated.[111] Accordingly, regardless what level of criminality is taking place: "People approach sentencing with this background belief that crime is inexorably on the rise."[112]

71. Professor Hough described a similar gap in public attitudes towards sentencing. He stated: "if you ask people, 'are judges and magistrates tough enough?' […] Most people, four out of five, think judges and magistrates are too soft". [113] As with the perception of crime, Professor Hough suggested that attitudes had not changed when practice had, saying that this proportion "has been remarkably consistent since we first devised this question in 1995 or 1996 […] despite that fact that prison population over the last 15 years has risen by a very substantial amount and a significant factor underlying that increase is the toughening up of judges' sentencing". [114]

72. Professor Hough's proposition as to why perceptions of crime and sentencing did not change in line with practice was "because people are insulated from what the courts do".[115] The Local Crime: Community Sentence project confirms this view. As part of these interactive presentations by sentencers and probation, members of the public are given mock-up newspaper reports, and asked to choose an appropriate sentence. They are then given more information about the offence, the offender and the potential options for dealing with them and again asked to choose an appropriate sentence. 49.5% of those who initially felt a prison sentence was appropriate did not believe this once they had more detailed information than was present in a newspaper report.[116] The Magistrates' Association commented on this project:

    "We do find that whenever we do one of these presentations, you may start off with a group of the public of whatever age and type who begin with a fairly harsh approach but, once you have gone through the sentencing structure and the various options available, it is quite staggering how they reduce their feeling and realise that there are really effective penalties that do not involve immediate custody."[117]

73. We heard that it is not only the general public but also those directly affected by crime whose attitudes changed when provided with more information. Helen Leney, Acting Manager of the restorative justice service TV STARS (Thames Valley Statutory Adult Restoration Service), talked about how having more information about what an offender was doing on his or her community sentence can make a difference to victims:

    "A lot of victims feel, particularly for a violent offence, that if the offender is not sentenced to custody then they have got off, whereas if they come to one of these meetings [restorative justice conference] and hear from the probation officer exactly what they [the offender] are doing in their community sentence, that is very reassuring for victims."[118]

74. Professor Hough pointed out that, when asked to consider the questions a court must consider rather than general questions as to the state of sentencing, people tolerate sentences "pretty much in line with what happens."[119]

    "The best example of that is a question asked over successive British crime surveys: a 23-year-old burglar with two previous convictions for burglary breaks into a bungalow in daytime and steals electrical goods, and respondents in the BCS [British Crime Survey] are asked 'What would he have got?' and 'What should he have got?' On 'What would he have got?' roughly one-third […] say 'Prison' and on 'What should he have got?' nudging two-thirds say 'Prison'. What would he actually have got? This guy is somebody who has actually been swept into the 'three strikes and you are out' provisions for burglary and, unless there are exceptional circumstances, the judge should pass a three-year sentence." [120]

75. People who worked with victims told us that there was a crucial need for more information about sentencing to get to victims. Helen Leney, of the restorative justice service TV STARS told us: "One of the most distressing things that victims would say was, 'Nobody told me anything'. I saw one young man who the first thing he knew of a sentence having been passed was when he read about it in the local paper with his name in it."[121] RoadPeace described the practical difficulties of really understanding what a sentence means and of families of victims not getting information about whether an offender had appealed against sentence and what would happen next. [122]

76. Others identified the information gaps preventing an informed public debate about sentencing. The Magistrates' Association state: "There is insufficient reliable evidence either from academic research or sentencing data to allow informed comment to be made on the current sentencing process."[123] Their concerns were validated by a pilot study seeking to collect information using court records on sentencing practice in England and Wales. The pilot concluded that some important (and basic) information, such as aggravating and mitigating factors or previous convictions, was likely to be unavailable, making it difficult to understand the different factors that led to a particular sentence being imposed.[124] RoadPeace sought evidence as to the effectiveness of different types of sentencing. It had not opposed the use of community sentences for appropriate cases of the new offence of causing death by careless driving, but felt strongly that its use "should be evaluated […] to show that it is not just a cheap option. Bereaved families need to know that it is an effective one."[125]

77. In June 2009 the Sentencing Advisory Panel published research into public attitudes to the principles of sentencing, as part of their work drawing up advice to the Sentencing Guidelines Council on the revision of the sentencing guideline: overarching principles.[126] This research considered a variety of issues in relation to public attitudes and sentencing. Its findings included that people were twice as likely to support than to oppose courts taking the cost of different sentences into consideration and that perceptions of the relative importance of the different aims of sentencing varied according to the specific case. The research concluded however that it was difficult to accommodate public opinion into consideration of the principles of sentencing until misconceptions that courts were lenient had been addressed.

78. The proposals for a new unitary Sentencing Council contained in the Coroners and Justice Bill lay new duties on this organisation with regard to information gathering and dissemination. The new body must monitor the operation of its sentencing guidelines, assess the resources required as it develops sentencing guidelines and publish each year an assessment of the sentencing and non-sentencing factors that will impact on prison spaces and probation workloads. It must also publish information on sentencing at a local level and may promote awareness of sentencing at a national level. The impact assessment for these clauses in the Coroners and Justice Bill includes additional analytical staff at the Sentencing Council and some administrative staff in larger courts for data collection if required.[127] The impact assessment also states that Judicial and Court costs are "not included as will be absorbed".[128] The Sentencing Commission Working Group conducted a short survey of ten Crown Court centres to consider the feasibility of collecting some of the basic information that would be needed; it concluded "we believe it would be necessary to consider the additional burden on judges and any consequent effect on the operation of the courts."[129]

79. Professor Hough felt that any new sentencing organisation could play an important part in correcting public misinformation about sentencing. He said:

    "In most common-law industrialised countries there seems to be a fairly systematic form of misinformation amongst the public about sentencing practice. It is very clear that in this country people are cross and angry about how the courts treat offenders—but also systematically misinformed in that they have no idea how tough we are on burglars and robbers or rapists.[…] The Ministry of Justice or the Home Office are probably not the bodies to tell the public that the picture is not as dire as they fear, because they will not be believed. But an independent sentencing commission or council could adopt that function."[130]

80. We are convinced by the evidence that public attitudes towards sentences change depending on whether people are asked abstract questions about leniency or given details of a situation and asked about the appropriate sentence. When given enough information to understand a sentence, people support sentencing at a level similar to current sentencing practice. We conclude that sentencing policy should not be determined on the presumption that the public find current sentencing too lenient. Public confidence would be better served by ensuring and then demonstrating that sentencing is effective in preventing people from being victims of crime in the future.

81. Even if more people are sent to prison for longer, people will not necessarily be convinced that sentences are in fact increasing in length. It is also not necessarily what the public wants. Pursuing a sentencing policy based on a misconception of what people want is not intelligent, appropriate or sustainable. More worryingly, it may result in more people being victims of crime in the future and less confidence in the criminal justice system.

82. It has been a settled principle of the development of sentencing guidelines for over a decade that their formulation should have regard to the cost of different sentences and their relative effectiveness in preventing re-offending and the need to promote public confidence in the criminal justice system. In our experience, these aspects are both crucial and difficult to capture. We will therefore continue to pursue these aspects in our work on sentencing guidelines.

83. Sentencing policy needs to consider not only the cost of sentencing, but its cost effectiveness, measured in terms of its ability to prevent people from being victims of more crimes in the future. At the same time, sentencing policy and sentencing in individual cases are influenced by the public's entirely understandable wish to have an outcome from a conviction which recognises the level of seriousness with which society regards such a crime. This statement of seriousness and disapproval is almost always seen as something which can only be achieved by a prison sentence, or by a longer custodial sentence than for other crimes with which it is compared. Newspaper reports of trials, often including interviews with victims' families, frequently attest that the sentence was not long enough, or should have been custodial rather than community-based, without regard to whether the custodial or longer sentence would be more effective—or at all effective—in preventing further crimes after release. This problem will continue to have a powerful effect on public confidence in sentencing, and on the response of sentencers, unless ways can be found of combining within a sentence a clear signal as to the seriousness of the offence and a rational assessment of how effective the sentence will be in preventing further crimes. We intend to give this issue further consideration in our forthcoming report on Justice Reinvestment.

84. The added value we can bring by reviewing sentencing guidelines is hampered by the poor standard of information available on the costs of different sentences and on measures of effectiveness of different sentences. It is unacceptable that basic information such as what factors led to a particular sentence being imposed in a particular case is not collected and made available. We recommend that the Government as a matter of urgency commit to identifying information on sentencing that is crucial and put in place a structured plan to collect and publish this data.

85. We welcome therefore the provisions for information collection, analysis and dissemination in the proposals for a new Sentencing Council for England and Wales. However, we are worried that in practice, such issues may turn out to be peripheral considerations for the Sentencing Council. The Government has demonstrated, as detailed in our report Towards Effective Sentencing, an inability to ensure that sentencing policies are resourced so that they may be effectively implemented. We are concerned that, as one example, the impact assessment for the Sentencing Council ignores costs that may be incurred by the judiciary. We recommend that the Government ensures that structures for data collection on sentencing are adequately resourced both at a national and local level.


65   HC Deb, 28 October 2008, col 726 Back

66   Criminal Justice Act 2003, Section 142 Back

67   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on the Sentencing Commission, 14 October 2008, HC (2007-08) 1095-i, Q 1 Back

68   Faulkner, D., 'the reform of sentencing and the future of the criminal courts', in Rethinking Sentencing, a report from the Mission and Public Affairs Council, Church House Publishing, 2004, p.9 Back

69   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on the Sentencing Commission, 14 October 2008, HC (2007-08) 1095-i, Q 1 Back

70   Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, 'Punishment and Reform', Speech to Royal Society for the Arts, 27 October 2008 Back

71   Ministry of Justice, Punishment and reform: our approach to managing offenders, December 2008 Back

72   Q 2, Oral Evidence on Sentencing Commission, 14 October 2008 Back

73   Rt Hon Lord Justice Laws, 'the future of sentencing: a perspective from the judiciary', in Rethinking Sentencing, a report from the Mission and Public Affairs Council, Church House Publishing, 2004, p.67  Back

74   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Draft Sentencing Guidelines: Assault, 23 October 2007, HC (2007-08) 1098-i, Q 18 Back

75   Faulkner, D., 'the reform of sentencing and the future of the criminal courts', in Rethinking Sentencing, a report from the Mission and Public Affairs Council, Church House Publishing, 2004, pp 7-8 Back

76   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Theft and Burglary (non-dwelling), 3 June 2008, HC ( 2007-08) 649-i, Q 22 Back

77   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Theft and Burglary (non-dwelling), 3 June 2008, HC ( 2007-08) 649-i, Q 15 Back

78   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Theft and Burglary (non-dwelling), 3 June 2008, HC ( 2007-08) 649-i,Q 14 Back

79   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Theft and Burglary (non-dwelling), 3 June 2008, HC ( 2007-08) 649-i, Q 13 Back

80   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Theft and Burglary (non-dwelling), 3 June 2008, HC ( 2007-08) 649-i, Q 29 Back

81   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Draft Sentencing Guidelines: Assault, 23 October 2007, HC (2006-07) 1098-i, Q 29  Back

82   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Theft and Burglary (non-dwelling), 3 June 2008, HC ( 2007-08) 649-i, Q 27 Back

83   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Draft Sentencing Guidelines: Assault, 23 October 2007, HC (2006-07) 1098-i, Q 44 Back

84   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Draft Sentencing Guidelines: Assault, 23 October 2007, HC (2006-07) 1098-i, Q 46 Back

85   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 43 Back

86   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Qq 41-42 Back

87   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 68 Back

88   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 68 Back

89   Oral Evidence on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Theft and Burglary (non-dwelling), 3 June 2008, HC (2007-08) 649-i, Qq 6, 11 Back

90   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Sentencing Guidelines, 22 January 2008, HC (2007-08) 279-i, Q 10 Back

91   Loader, I., 'Straw's embrace of penal excess ignores the public will', The Guardian, 28 October 2008 Back

92   Criminal Justice Act 2003, Section 170; this duty is replicated in the Coroners and Justice Bill for the proposed Sentencing Council for England and Wales. Back

93   HC Deb, 21 January 2008, col 1679W Back

94   HC Deb, 5 February 2009, col 1402W Back

95   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Sentencing Guidelines, 22 January 2008, HC (2007-08) 279-i, Q 16 Back

96   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Sentencing Guidelines, 22 January 2008, HC (2007-08) 279-i, Q 3 Back

97   Restrictions on Sentencing, A briefing from Napo the Trade Union and Professional Association for Family Court and Probation Staff, 11 March 2008 Back

98   Justice Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2007-08, Towards Effective Sentencing, Oral and Written Evidence, 26 June 2007, HC (2007-08) 184-II, Qq 97-98 Back

99   Rt Hon Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, 'How important is punishment?', speech to the Howard League for Penal Reform, 15 November 2007 Back

100   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Sentencing Guidelines, 22 January 2008, HC (2007-08) 279-i, Q 16 Back

101   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on the Sentencing Commission, 14 October 2008, HC (2007-08) 1095-i, Q 7 Back

102   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on the Sentencing Commission, 14 October 2008, HC (2007-08) 1095-i, Q 8 Back

103   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on the Sentencing Commission, 14 October 2008, HC (2007-08) 1095-i, Q 8 Back

104   Sentencing Commission Working Group, Sentencing Guidelines in England and Wales: An evolutionary approach, July 2008, paragraph 1.3 Back

105   Sentencing Commission Working Group, Sentencing Guidelines in England and Wales: An evolutionary approach, July 2008, paragraph 9.14 Back

106   Home Affairs Committee, Towards Effective Sentencing, Oral and Written Evidence, 17 April 2007, HC (2006-07) 467-i, Q 49

We are also looking in our Justice Reinvestment inquiry at initiatives designed to promote discussion, involvement and understanding among sentencers of the availability and quality in their areas of community sentences and restorative justice schemes. Back

107   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on the Sentencing Commission, 14 October 2008, HC (2007-08) 1095-i, Q 10 Back

108   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 1 Back

109   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 32 Back

110   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 1 Back

111   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 1 Back

112   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 1 Back

113   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 1 Back

114   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 1, 4 Back

115   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 10 Back

116   Garside, R., What the public really thinks about community sentences, London: Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, 2006 Back

117   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Draft Sentencing Guidelines: Assault, 23 October 2007, HC (2006-07) 1098-i, Q 16 Back

118   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Draft Sentencing Guidelines: Assault, 23 October 2007, HC (2006-07) 1098-i, Q 30 Back

119   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 10 Back

120   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 10 Back

121   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Draft Sentencing Guidelines: Assault, 23 October 2007, HC (2006-07) 1098-i, Q 34 Back

122   Justice Committee, Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, Oral and Written evidence, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Ev 19 Back

123   The Magistrates' Association response to the Sentencing Commission Working Group Consultation on a Structured Sentencing Framework and Sentencing Commission, 30 May 2008 Back

124   Dhami, M.K. and Souza, K.A., Study of Sentencing and its outcomes: pilot report, Ministry of Justice Research Series 2/09, February 2009 Back

125   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on Consultation Sentencing Guideline: Causing Death by Driving, 4 March 2008, HC (2007-08) 407-i, Q 54 Back

126   Sentencing Advisory Panel, Public Attitudes to the Principles of Sentencing, Research Report 6, June 2009 Back

127   www.justice.gov.uk/publications/docs/coroners-justice-bill-ia-sentencing-council.pdf Back

128   www.justice.gov.uk/publications/docs/coroners-justice-bill-ia-sentencing-council.pdf Back

129   Sentencing Commission Working Group, Sentencing Guidelines in England and Wales: An Evolutionary Approach, July 2008, para 5.4 Back

130   Oral Evidence taken before the Justice Committee on the Sentencing Commission, 14 October 2008, HC (2007-08) 1095-i, Q 18 Back


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 2 July 2009