HC Deb 18 February 1971 vol 811 cc2098-9
6. Mr. Arthur Davidson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the working of the system of suspended sentences; and if he will make a statement.

26. Mr. Fowler

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of concern about the operation of the suspended sentence system, he will consider amending the law on this subject.

Mr. Maudling

I am not in all respects satisfied with the operation of the suspended sentence system, and it is among the matters which I have in mind for possible future criminal justice legislation.

Mr. Davidson

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Is he aware that one of the results of the system, which is exactly opposite to that which was intended, has been that many people are going to prison who would not previously have done so but might have been put on probation? Will he consider, while keeping the system, allowing more flexibility to magistrates in the way in which they operate it

Mr. Maudling

There is a lot in what the hon. Gentleman says—that people who might have been fined or put on probation are now given suspended sentences. This is one of the reasons why I want to review the system if we have a chance to introduce a new Criminal Justice Bill.

Mr. Fowler

As suspended sentences have helped to fill the prisons rather than to empty them, and as there are already a number of alternatives to prison in existence, will my right hon. Friend consider the case for abolishing suspended sentences rather than simply reforming them?

Mr. Maudling

In the course of the review of another Criminal Justice Bill I will consider what is to be done about suspended sentences. My information is that they have not added as much as is thought to the prison population, if they have added anything. But the system is not working as the House intended it to work.