§ Lord Brabazon of Tara
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What steps they are taking to ensure that the magistracy is clear about the scope of its powers in respect of sentencing, in the light of the recent announcement by the Home Secretary that significant parts of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 are to be changed, and whether the Government are satisfied that, in law, magistrates have the discretion to interpret the current Act sufficiently broadly to avoid further inappropriate sentences in the period before alternative provisions can be brought into effect.
We are satisfied that magistrates have the discretion which they need to pass sentences which reflect the circumstances of the offence and the offender. It is not, though, for the Government to advise magistrates on how they should exercise discretion within the law. That is entirely a matter for the courts. The Magistrates' Association issued a Bulletin to its members on 4 May underlining the discretion which is available under the unit fine scheme.