Over two parliaments, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has been concerned with children’s right to family life being breached when their mothers are sentenced to prison. When a mother is sentenced to prison, children themselves receive their own sentence to serve.
The Committee has consistently made the case for children to have greater visibility when their mother is sentenced to prison. Children are hidden from sight because there is no central or consistent way of collecting information on children whose mother is sentenced to prison. This has serious implications for the support available to the separated mother and her children, and impedes the design of services that are vital to support these children and go some way to ensuring that their right to family life is not breached. Their voices are too often ignored or not heard when their mother is sentenced, despite case law and guidelines that should ensure that their best interests and welfare are considered.
The Government has been taking only small steps in rectifying this, despite the attention brought to the issue by this Committee, and despite the Government’s “ambitious programme of sentencing reform”. In our report, we set out amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which would enable the Government to stride forward with steps that match its ambition and ensure that children’s right to family life is protected when their mother is sentenced.