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Administrative Penalties

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2010

The Government are undertaking a full assessment of sentencing policy to ensure that it is effective in deterring crime, protecting the public, punishing offenders and reducing reoffending. We are considering our approach to out-of-court penalties as part of this work.

I thank the Minister for that answer. By 2007, fewer than half the offenders brought to justice—on the previous Government’s measure—had ever seen or been passed through the dock of a court. A man who glassed a pub landlady recently was cautioned, and a serial thief was issued with a dozen on-the-spot fines. What plans does he have to reverse Labour’s pay-as-you-go crime policy, and does he agree that magistrates courts have a vital role to play?

The number of out-of-court disposals administered each year has risen by 135% since 2003. Such disposals now account for 40% of all offences brought to justice. However, during the same period, the number of convictions at court has remained broadly stable, suggesting that out-of-court penalties are expanding the number of offenders who are dealt with rather than being used as an alternative to prosecution.