Magistrates cool on sentencing proposals

Home Office plans to create a generic community sentence for young offenders could increase imprisonment, magistrates have warned.

The Magistrates’ Association said proposals to be included in the Criminal Justice Bill, announced in last week’s Queen’s Speech, to replace the existing nine community sentences with one order could put sentencers in a “straitjacket”.

John Fassenfelt, chair of the association’s youth courts committee, said magistrates were not against a single order per se but it meant they would have fewer options other than custody if it 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 added there would be “disappointment” if the bill did not include a stand alone intensive supervision and surveillance order, providing an alternative to custody for serious or persistent offenders.

This had been promised in the 2004 Queen’s Speech as part of a comprehensive draft youth justice bill that was never published.

The Criminal Justice Bill will also contain measures to tackle antisocial behaviour. Proposals included in a consultation paper, issued last week, include a deferred penalty notice for disorder which could be issued if an offender signed an acceptable behaviour contract to stay out of trouble.


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