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Community Service Sentences

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2010

Our plans are to ensure that community sentences are tough, effective and rigorously enforced, and that they punish offenders, but steer them off drugs and alcohol and into employment. We are conducting a full assessment of sentencing policy, including asking judges and magistrates for their views on which community sentences are the most effective.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Many of my constituents hold to the old-fashioned notion that justice should not just be done, but be seen to be done, and they do not have much faith that community service sentences will deliver on that. How can he reassure my constituents that community service sentences will be robust and not a soft option?

We believe that making community sentences tougher in delivering punishment—especially looking at the operation of community payback—and more effective in delivering rehabilitation, restoration and the protection of the public, will help to show that people can have increasing confidence in such sentences. Achieving those objectives will be an important element of our assessment of sentencing policy.

If the Minister is to increase the number of community sentences as the Justice Secretary wishes to do, can he give the House an indication of how much money he intends to transfer to the probation budget, given that it has an in-year cut this year of £20 million? Can he also tell us which sentences of under six-months he thinks are inappropriate, given that at present they are available for offences such as assault on a police officer, domestic violence, child abuse and firearms offences? Indeed, three quarters of people sentenced to under six months have committed seven or more offences.

On the latter point, the right hon. Gentleman will have to wait until the sentencing review when we will bring forward our detailed proposals, which—I am sure—will hang together in a properly co-ordinated manner. He must also appreciate that the economic inheritance that this Government received—[Interruption.] There is no point hon. Members groaning. It is a fact of life that an increase in budgets in the environment that we inherited is simply not going to happen.

With regards to the sentencing review, will the Minister consider the use of more judicial discretion—unfortunately removed by the previous Government—thereby trusting our judiciary?

My hon. Friend has alighted on a principle that the Justice Secretary has already enunciated.