HC Deb 07 March 2000 vol 345 cc659-60W
Mr. Ben Chapman

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what training magistrates receive on sentencing; and if he will make a statement. [112806]

Mr. Lock

Training of magistrates is the responsibility of individual Magistrates Courts Committees within a framework set on behalf of the Lord Chancellor by the Judicial Studies Board, an independent, non-departmental public body. Magistrates are trained to approach sentencing in a structured way, taking into account a range of factors including the nature and seriousness of the offence. Sentencing is a matter for judicial discretion taking into account the statutory framework, any Court of Appeal sentencing guideline judgments and other relevant case law. Magistrates are encouraged to use the sentencing guidelines published by the Magistrates Association, with the approval of the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice, in reaching their decisions.

The Human Rights Act 1998 and the revised sentencing powers in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 create new challenges for the magistracy but the Government, which is committed to the lay magistracy continuing to play a significant role in our system of justice, is confident that magistrates will rise to those challenges.