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Young Offenders: Sentencing

Volume 475: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what mechanisms are in place to reduce the number of people under the age of 21 years in prison for non-violent offences. (203303)

While sentencing in any individual case is a matter entirely for the court, the Government believe that prison should be reserved for serious and dangerous offenders. Other offenders are normally better punished in the community. The Government introduced the generic community order for adults in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and provisions in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill currently going through Parliament will create the youth rehabilitation order, a broadly similar sentence for juveniles. Such orders enable the courts to choose from a wide range of requirements so as to effectively meet the circumstances of the offence and the offender. They should enable the courts to have greater confidence in community sentences and to use them instead of custody in all cases other than when custody really is the only punishment that will meet the circumstances of the offence.