Skip to main content

Sentencing

Volume 507: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) what guidance he issues to magistrates on the activation of suspended sentences of imprisonment where the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty during the period of suspension to the commission of a further (a) non-imprisonable and (b) imprisonable offence in circumstances where an imprisonable offence has previously been committed and the suspended sentence has not yet been activated; (321999)

(2) what guidance he has issued to magistrates on the activation of suspended sentences of imprisonment where the defendant is either found guilty or pleads guilty during the period of suspension to (a) a breach of a requirement forming part of the suspended sentence, (b) the commission of a non-imprisonable offence and (c) the commission of an imprisonable offence.

Suspended sentence orders were introduced in April 2005 to provide the courts with a tougher and more flexible suspended sentence as an alternative to immediate custody, where appropriate. It provides for the court both to suspend the custodial sentence and also to impose community requirements such as curfew, community payback and drug rehabilitation.

The Government do not issue guidance to magistrates or judges on sentencing. The issuing of guidance is a matter for the Sentencing Guidelines Council. Breach of a suspended sentence order is governed by schedule 12 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Essentially, where an offender breaches a suspended sentence by failing to comply with a community requirement or by committing a further offence the presumption is that the suspended sentence will be activated, unless the court finds it would be unjust to do so. If it activates the suspended sentence the court can set a shorter term for the offender to serve if it wishes. If the court finds that it would be unjust to activate the suspended sentence it can keep the sentence suspended but amend the order to make the community requirements more onerous, or to extend the supervision or operational periods.