HC Deb 16 May 2000 vol 350 cc71-2W
Mr. Hope

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to introduce new sentencing arrangements. [122565]

Mr. Straw

As part of our objectives of reducing crime and dispensing justice fairly, we have already put in place a comprehensive programme of work to reduce the rate of re-offending. This includes ensuring that the Prison Service and the probation service work more effectively together; improving the enforcement of community penalties; developing programmes, in custody and in the community; which are known to reduce re-offending (based on the "what works" strategy) and building on the opportunities which new technology opens up.

Together these developments present an opportunity to consider possible new forms of sentences which better protect the public and reduce re-offending. In particular, they open up the possibility of a more flexible sentencing structure, in which the boundaries between custodial and community penalties are less rigid. However, the current legal framework established in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 may not be best suited to an approach of this sort. I have therefore decided to review that framework. The review will complement that of the criminal courts being conducted by Lord Justice Auld.

Its terms of reference will be: In the light of the Government's objectives to protect the public by reducing crime and re-offending, and to dispense justice fairly and consistently, to consider: what principles should guide sentencing decisions; what types of disposal should be made available to the courts in order to meet the overarching objectives; the costs of different disposals and their relative effectiveness in reducing re-offending; what changes therefore need to be made to the current sentencing framework, as established by the Criminal Justice Act 1991, so as more effectively to reduce re-offending, including any transitional and consequential arrangements; and the likely impact of any recommendations in terms of costs and the effects on the prison population. In particular, the review should bear in mind the desirability of promoting flexibility in the use of custodial and community based approaches.

The review will be led by a senior official from the Home Office. I want it to be a rigorous, evidence-based exercise. It will operate in an open way, involving and seeking views from as wide a range of interests as possible. I expect it to take about 12 months from now to produce recommendations, which will then be the subject of formal consultation.