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Community Sentences

Volume 639: debated on Tuesday 24 April 2018

2. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of community sentences on reducing reoffending rates. (904895)

This is something the Department studied in detail in 2015, and we have conclusive evidence that giving somebody a community sentence rather than a short custodial sentence reduces reoffending over a one-year period.

We have evidence of that in Scotland as well. The Scottish Government’s move towards community payback orders has helped Scotland to achieve its current 18-year low in reoffending. Is the Minister looking to the Scottish Government’s example and considering how they have managed to achieve these figures?

Absolutely. We have a lot to learn from Scotland, specifically on community sentences, and indeed we will be looking at what more we can do to emphasise that a custodial sentence in the short term should be a final resort. In reoffending terms, it is often much better for somebody to be given a community sentence.

In Cornwall, I work closely with Konnect Cornwall, headed up by Ian Curnow, which does a lot of work on behalf of the Government and the Department for Work and Pensions to support ex-offenders and people who are on the way into trouble. What more resources can be made available so that no one is left behind?

A lot of this is about identifying those key local providers. The real challenge that we need to overcome, which is true not just for justice but for local councils, is that of making sure that when we work with the third sector we work, not with big national providers, but with small, grassroots local charities.

I draw the House’s attention to the fact that I am a life member of the Magistrates Association. In the all-party parliamentary group on women in the penal system, we recently heard from the Magistrates Association that magistrates are not familiar with the content of community penalties. That makes them reluctant to choose such penalties. The issue, in part, seems to be a lack of funding for training. Will the Minister comment?

This is a long-standing issue—it was true even in 2008-09—that consistently, the judiciary and magistrates have expressed concerns about community sentences. We need to do much more to build confidence, but the fact that this has been going on for nearly 10 years shows that it is a very challenging thing to do. Training will be an important part of that.