Suffolk: Magistrates urged to impose fewer prison sentences

Man jailed for attacking girlfriend

Man jailed for attacking girlfriend - Credit: PA

Data obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform shows courts in Suffolk imposed custodial sentences in 3.6% of the cases they heard in 2011 compared to the national average of 3.8%.

However, the figures more than double those recorded in Warwickshire, with just 1.5%, and 1.6% in Northumbria.

Magistrates handed out 14,589 sentences to men, women and children during 2011, of which 519 were custodial.

Overall, magistrates’ courts in England and Wales reduced their use of custody by a quarter between 2001 and 2011.

Frances Cook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is pleasing to see that magistrates’ courts are sending fewer people to prison overall than they have in the past.

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“However, one cannot ignore the striking disparity in sentencing trends between different criminal justice areas.

“A short-term prison sentence is a catastrophe for everyone.

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“It does not help change the life of the person sentenced – indeed, it is likely to compound issues such as drug addiction and make them more likely to re-offend.” The maximum sentence a magistrates’ court can impose is a six-month prison term, or up to 12 months in total for more than one offence.

The statistics have been published as Ministry of Justice figures show that short-term prison sentences are failing to cut crime.

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