§ Mr. Mike O'Brien
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment he has made of the effect of the restrictions on taking previous convictions into account when sentencing offenders.
§ Mr. Jack
The Criminal Justice Act 1991 introduced new provisions relating to previous convictions which reflected existing Court of Appeal guidance. It is too early yet to make a meaningful assessment of the effect of the Act, which came into force on 1 October 1992. However, we will be monitoring closely the effects of this new Act.
§ Mr. David Porter
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy to revise upwards the minimum value of the sentencing unit; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Jack
The principle of the unit fine scheme, which applies to offences committed on or after 1 October 1992, is that fines should cause equal hardship for the well-off and less well-off by depriving an offender of a number of units of his disposable weekly income. One unit is intended to represent a third of the sum left to an offender after essential living expenses have been deducted from his take-home weekly income. For those with very low incomes, who have £12 a week or less after essential living expenses are deducted, there is normally a minimum unit value of £4.
The operation of the unit fine scheme is being carefully monitored. It is too early to say whether any aspect of it will need to be revised.