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Serious and Violent Offenders (Sentencing)

Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2013

Serious and violent offenders deserve to go to prison. That is why we introduced mandatory life sentences for anyone convicted for a second time of a very serious sexual or violent offence, and tough extended determinate sentences for other dangerous offenders. The new regime restores clarity, coherence and common sense to sentencing.

In Hull last year, the clear-up rate for actual bodily harm was 41%, but for sexual offences it was only 28%, and we know that 7,000 fewer violent crimes were solved nationally. Mandatory life sentences are available only for second offences of a very serious sexual and violent nature, and many offenders are not convicted in the first place. With indeterminate sentences having been abolished for that particular group, is the Minister satisfied that the public are protected from these very dangerous offenders?

I hope the hon. Lady is reassured by, for instance, the new extended determinate sentence, under which the offender receives a custodial sentence plus a further long extended period of licence set by the court. Offenders receiving that sentence will serve at least two thirds of the custodial term, which is higher than has been the practice in recent years, showing that the system is not just more coherent, but, for these kinds of serious offences, tougher than before.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that in north Yorkshire one of the difficulties with sentencing and bringing people to trial is the lack of a sexual assault and rape centre? What plans do the Government have to bring one forward?

My hon. Friend will have heard the victims Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), set out the much good work she is promoting in terms of victims’ centres, and in particular rape victim centres. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh) that Ministers are taking that issue very seriously in all parts of the country, and particularly in north Yorkshire.