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Crime: Sentences

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to improve the public's understanding of the factors taken into consideration in the sentencing of criminals in Northern Ireland. [HL3353]

During the Government’s extensive review and consultation on a new sentencing framework for Northern Ireland, a common theme that emerged was a lack of clarity in current sentencing. From the views expressed, it became clear that the cause of this lack of clarity was the existing automatic right of prisoners to 50 per cent remission, rather than any mitigating factors taken into account by the judiciary in considering individual cases.

That is why our proposals for a new sentencing framework bring an end to automatic 50 per cent remission. Dangerous violent and sexual offenders could, if necessary, be detained indefinitely, while those committing other specified offences could be detained until the end of their prison sentence. For all other offenders, the court would set a clearly defined custodial part of the sentence, which the offender must serve in full, and a clearly defined licence period to be served under supervision in the community.

We will consult fully on a set of draft legislative proposals later this year.