HC Deb 12 January 1998 vol 304 c72W
Miss Widdecombe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his policy on the collection of statistics on re-offending while in receipt of a suspended sentence; and if he will make a statement. [22590]

Mr. Michael

The Criminal Justice Act 1991 restricted the use of fully suspended sentences to cases where a court decides the offence is so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence of not more than two years imprisonment is justified, but where there are exceptional circumstances which justify its suspension. Between 1993 and 1996, fully suspended sentences accounted for less than one per cent. of those sentenced for indictable offences.

Statistics on re-offending, as measured by reconvictions, can be derived from regular samples drawn from the Offenders Index, a database of criminal careers maintained by the Home Office. For example, in a sample of those sentenced in 1991 (prior to implementation of the Criminal Justice Act 1991), 39 per cent. of those given a fully suspended sentence were reconvicted of a standard list offence within two years. Samples of those sentenced in later years have been drawn but any information on reconviction derived from these samples would be unreliable because of the small numbers of fully suspended sentences in the samples.

Information on the number of offenders breaching fully suspended sentences is collected and published annually. The most recent published data relate to those breaching fully suspended sentences in 1996 and appear in table 7.25 of "Criminal Statistics, England and Wales, 1996" (Cm. 3764).

Information was published regularly on reconviction rates for standard list offences within two years of release for prisoners discharged from partly suspended sentences. However, partly suspended sentences were abolished under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 which was implemented on 1 October 1992. The most recent available information appears in Home Office Statistical Bulletin 5/97 "Reconvictions of Prisoners Discharged from Prison in 1993, England and Wales". There were only 27 prisoners released from such sentences in 1993.