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Sentencing Policy

Volume 115: debated on Thursday 7 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department has taken to monitor the effect on the pattern of sentencing of the operation of the Lord Chief Justice's guidelines; and if he will make a statement.

Sentencing trends are constantly monitored and we have carefully examined the effects of recent Court of Appeal guideline judgments. As I would expect, they have a real impact on sentencing.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the long sentences available are being used for serious crimes? Does he believe that there is sufficient differentiation in sentencing between those found guilty of medium-ranking crimes against property and those found guilty of serious crimes against people, especially children?

That differentiation is something that everybody would like to see. The guidelines have an effect in the direction that my hon. Friend advocates. For example, the rape guideline in the Bilham case in 1985 has been followed by an increase in the proportion of those received into prison with sentences of more than five years from 20 to 45 per cent. There has been a similar increase following the Boswell guideline on causing death by reckless driving.

In view of my right hon. Friend's apparent satisfaction with the operation of the important guidelines, would he consider dropping clause 29 from the new edition of the Criminal Justice Bill, which, by general consent of Bar and Bench, is manifestly and palpably absurd?

I have observed that clause 29 has been criticised in another place, as here, with equal force both by those who say that it goes too far and by those who say that it does not go far enough. We should wait and see how we get on next week.