This new report from the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee, which the MA submitted evidence to, looks at women's experiences of the criminal justice system in London. It calls for a London-wide service that delivers access to quality specialist provision for all women who have offended, argues that increasing the provision of women's centres for offenders and those at risk across the capital is 'crucial', and recommends that at least one of the government's planned new residential women's centre should be piloted in London.
The report also highlights concerns about the use of community sentences and sentencers' lack of confidence in them and recommends that the Mayor of London's planned review of community sentencing should look at the quality of the community sentences that can be provided to women, the effect of 'speedy justice' on the quality of sentencing decisions, the awareness among magistrates of the range and effectiveness of community sentences and how this can be improved, the potential for the use of deferred sentences to encourage engagement with specialist provision, and the use of problem-solving courts with female offenders.
Commenting on the report, the MA's National Chairman John Bache said:
'This timely report is right to highlight concerns about sentencers' confidence in community sentences. Effective community sentences tailored specifically for women must be routinely made available, while courts must be properly informed about the community provision that is available in their area. This would ensure that magistrates can give community sentences with confidence, knowing that they are suitable for female offenders and will prevent reoffending and reduce crime. Magistrates should also be given the power to review the progress made by an offender serving a community sentence, to support offenders in turning their lives around while also increasing the magistracy's confidence in their effectiveness.'