Planned new sentence for young offenders could mean more enter custody

Home Office plans to create a generic community sentence for young offenders could result in more youngsters ending up in custody, magistrates have warned.

The Magistrates’ Association said proposals in the Queen’s Speech to replace the existing nine community sentences for juveniles with one order could restrict flexibility for sentencers and put them in a “straitjacket”.

John Fassenfelt, the association’s youth courts lead, questioned the need to absorb the existing orders, and said that magistrates were not confused about the array of choices on offer.

He said: “We are not against a new order per se, but it is about whether we are then given better options other than the custodial route.”

“Community punishments should be stronger with more effort focused on the individual and clearly, the public have got to have better confidence in them.”

Fassenfelt said the association would work with whatever order the Home Office finally introduces in its forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill.

But he said that by introducing a generic order, magistrates would have fewer options than to consider custody if the order was breached.

Chris Stanley, head of policy at crime reduction charity Nacro, agreed that a breach of any generic sentence could accelerate the route to custody.

He said there would be “disappointment” if the bill did not include a standalone Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Order, which provided a “robust” alternative to custody.

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