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Magistrates' Courts:Sentencing Policy

Volume 417: debated on Thursday 26 February 1981

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in view of the disparity between the percentages of adult male offenders sentenced to imprisonment by different magistrates' courts (e.g. Dorset 13ยท9 per cent., Lancashire 12 per cent., Northamptonshire 5.2 per cent. and Gwent 4.6 per cent.), they will ask courts with percentages above the national average (8.6 per cent.) to reconsider their practice.

Her Majesty's Government have made clear their support for the use of alternatives to custodial sentences in all suitable cases. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has welcomed the new initiative being undertaken by the Central Council of Probation and After-Care Committees and the Magistrates' Association in England and Wales, which aims to stimulate local discussion, by all those involved in the sentencing process, of ways of increasing the use of non-custodial penalties.He is sure that consideration of sentencing practice at local level can only be beneficial and, at the request of the Central Council of Probation and After-Care Committees and the Magistrates' Association, the Home Office Statistical Department is currently preparing statistical tables showing the use of various sentences in each commission area in England and Wales. Magistrates' courts in each area will then have the opportunity to examine their own practice in relation to that of other areas and the national picture.