HC Deb 23 July 1964 vol 699 cc127-9W
63. Mr. Delargy

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the Advisory Council's recommendation, made in January, 1963, to abolish preventive detention.

Mr. Brooke

The Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders recommended that preventive detention should be abolished, but that the courts should be empowered to pass a sentence of up to ten years' imprisonment on persistent offenders convicted of offences at present punishable with imprisonment for a term of five years or more.

The Government accept that, for the reasons given by the Advisory Council, preventive detention should be abolished. The Council, however, in their proposals to replace it, do not state exactly what they mean by "persistent offenders"; nor do they make any proposal as regards the persistent offender who commits an offence carrying a normal maximum of between two and five years (who under the present law could qualify for preventive detention of up to fourteen years).

The Government have thought it right to consider persistent offenders as a whole, including those at present eligible for corrective training. The qualifications for corrective training are set out in section 21(1) of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948. It is a sentence of from two to four years which aims at giving a constructive training to recidivists who are still likely to benefit from it.

In all forms of imprisonment, however, we are nowadays increasingly realising the aim of providing constructive training, and the Government consider that for those who now receive corrective training, just as for those who now receive preventive detention, it would be preferable to enable the appropriate type of training to be selected, after sentence, from the full resources available to the Home Office for offenders sentenced to ordinary imprisonment.

The Government accordingly propose to introduce legislation which will abolish preventive detention and corrective training and instead provide the courts with new powers to impose extended sentences of ordinary imprisonment on persistent offenders. It will only be permissible to impose the new extended sentence where:

  1. (1) a person is convicted on indictment of an offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more, and
  2. (2) the offence was committed within three years of a previous conviction of, or of completing a custodial sentence for, such an offence, and
  3. (3) the offender has been convicted on indictment on at least three previous occasions since he attained the age of 21 of offences punishable on indictment with imprisonment for two years or more; was on at least two of those occasions sentenced to imprisonment, corrective training, or preventive detention; and has in consequence undergone imprisonment, corrective training or preventive detention for an aggregate period of at least three years, and finally
  4. (4) the court, after considering all the circumstances of the offence and the offender, is of opinion that no other method of dealing with him (including a shorter sentence) is appropriate.

If all these conditions are fulfilled and if the court considers, having regard to the character and antecedents of the offender, that it is in the interests of protecting the public that such a special sentence should be imposed, the Government propose that the court should be empowered to impose a sentence of up to double the normal maximum for his offence, or fourteen years, whichever of these is the less. This will relate the extended sentence more directly to the normal maximum sentence which might otherwise be imposed for the offence, than the proposals of the Advisory Council would have done.