HC Deb 26 February 2002 vol 380 cc1238-9W
Mr. Andrew Turner

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to increase powers of courts to issue custodial sentences for(a) mobile phone theft, (b) car-jacking and (c) possession of drugs with intent to supply. [34777]

Mr. Keith Bradley

[holding answer 8 February 2002]: The courts already have very extensive sentencing powers to deal with this kind of offending. The circumstances of the offence will determine whether a person stealing a mobile phone is convicted of theft or robbery. The latter is the more serious offence because it necessarily involves force or the threat of force. The maximum penalty for theft is seven years imprisonment and the maximum penalty for robbery is life imprisonment. Car-jacking is charged as robbery. Moreover, section 109 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 provides for an automatic life sentence for a second serious sexual or violent offence. The offence of robbery is a qualifying offence under section 109.

Similarly, extensive sentencing powers are available in order to provide public protection in respect of supply of drugs. The maximum penalty for possessing class A drugs with the intent to supply is life imprisonment. The maximum penalty for possessing class B drugs with intent to supply is 14 years and the maximum penalty for possessing class C drugs with intent to supply is five years imprisonment. Section 110 of the Powers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years for a third class A drug trafficking offence.

The Government share public concern about the increasing prevalence of mobile phone robbery and car-jacking and about the continuing threats posed by drug offending. We need to protect the public from the harm that this kind of offending can inflict upon our communities. It is important that the courts treat these offences with the seriousness they deserve.

We are committed to making sense of sentencing. We need a new sentencing framework which will do more to support crime reduction and reparation, while meeting the needs of punishment, through the introduction of more flexible sentencing options such as a new generic community sentence and a new suspended sentence. We need to be better able to exploit the developing opportunities to work with offenders to reduce re-offending and in the new approaches to restorative justice and reparation.