Headlines: August 31st, 2001

Home Secretary David Blunkett has called for a public debate on proposals to reform the sentencing of criminals. The weaknesses of the current system are that it focuses on punishment of the guilty, with little emphasis on preventing reoffending and short custodial sentences are clearly ineffective.The reform proposals would put the reduction of reoffending as an aim equal to punishment. Recompense to the victim or the community would become an important consideration. Community sentences, as an alternative to prison, would play a greater role. Violent and dangerous offenders would no longer secure automatic release once half to two-thirds of the sentence has been served, but judges would order convicted criminals to serve their full sentence in prison with tough follow-on community supervision.

The proposals also include more radical measures. Under an ‘Intermittent Prison’ scheme, an offender would report for imprisonment during certain hours, but for the rest of the time would be able to stay with his family and keep his job. There is also a scheme for ‘Custody Minus’ where a convicted offender would be given a prison sentence but it would be suspended on condition that the offender completes a demanding programme of activity in the community. If he fails to complete this he would automatically go to prison.

Throughout September Home Office Ministers will be making a series of regional visits to hear people’s views and to call on local media to facilitate debate on effective punishments targeted at those offenders who damage the lives of individual victims and local communities.

Comments can be made directly to the Home Secretary by e-mail to home.secretary@fairer-sentencing.co.uk

Link: www.fairer-sentencing.co.uk <http://www.fairer-sentencing.co.uk>

Information provided by Horn Ltd, suppliers of specialist police information www.Horn.ltd.uk <http://www.Horn.ltd.uk>