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Custodial Sentencing

Volume 526: debated on Tuesday 29 March 2011

16. If he will assess the extent of regional variation in the rate of custodial sentencing of offenders under the age of 17; and if he will make a statement. (49336)

There is regional variation in the proportion of 10 to 17-year-olds who receive a custodial sentence of between 4% and 8% of those sentenced. There are national guidelines to promote consistency in sentencing, but levels will vary for reasons such as offence seriousness, local practices and criminal justice agency relationships.

There is such a thing as good sentencing policy. What are the Government doing to spread best practice in this critical area?

What we want to do is to begin to transfer responsibility to local authority areas, so that they begin to appreciate the cost of custody. At the moment, youth custody is extremely expensive, but it comes as a free good to local authorities. We want to incentivise them to deliver earlier intervention to divert people away from custody and, indeed, from youth crime in the first place.