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17 October 2023
Wider justice system

We support measures to reduce the use of short-term prison sentences.

The text reads: media statement

Responding to yesterday’s announcement from the Lord Chancellor on measures to increase prison capacity, Mark Beattie, the National Chair of the Magistrates’ Association, said:

“The Magistrates’ Association has been clear that the government must ensure adequate provision in prison capacity.

“Of all the announced measures, the presumption against an immediate short-term custodial sentence in favour of a suspended sentence or community order is particularly relevant in magistrates’ courts. This is similar to current practice where, even if the custody threshold for an offence is exceeded, magistrates will consider whether a suspended sentence or community order would be more appropriate. It is important that magistrates retain the discretion for immediate custody if neither a suspended sentence nor a community order is suitable, and we are pleased the Lord Chancellor recognised that in his statement.

“The Magistrates’ Association supports measures to reduce the use of short-term prison sentences, which are rarely effective in reducing re-offending. However, there are two factors critical in their reduction. Firstly, the expansion of the range and availability of community sentence options. Secondly, increased resourcing for the probation service to advise magistrates and to manage offenders in the community. We are disappointed with the limited focus on either of these in the Lord Chancellor’s statement. Our members tell us that the availability of treatment programmes is patchy, as is confidence in their quality. The Lord Chancellor’s statement does not address how these issues will be tackled.”