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Prison sentences under six months could be SCRAPPED allowing burglars and shoplifters to dodge jail

PRISON sentences under six months could be scrapped, meaning burglars and shoplifters would dodge jail time.

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart says the Ministry of Justice is ‘looking very carefully’ at radical changes to sentencing.

 Prison sentences that are under six months could be scrapped

Corbis – Getty

Prison sentences that are under six months could be scrapped

Up to 30,000 offenders a year would be spared jail if the plans are given the go-ahead.

Mr Stewart pointed to research that offenders who serve short sentences were “statistically more likely” to re-offend as opposed to those given community sentences.

Scotland has already introduced a bar on sentences that are under three months and is extending it to under 12 months.

Stewart told The Telegraph magazine: “This is something we are looking very carefully at a presumption against sentences of under six months and whether we can match or go further than [that].”

 Prisons' Minister Rory Stewart said the Ministry of Justice was looking into making these changes

Getty Images – Getty

Prisons’ Minister Rory Stewart said the Ministry of Justice was looking into making these changes

Only those convicted of violent or sex crimes would be excluded.

This move is a significant shift in philosophy towards emphasising rehabilitation instead of simply putting offenders in jail, which has doubled the prison population to more than 80,000 since the 90s.

Stewart acknowledged there is likely to be criticism against “soft justice” and even by some in his own party as well as the public.

He added: “We have to reassure the public, reassure colleagues and think it through to make sure we exclude people who have committed violent crimes and sex offences to get the right balance.”

 This means shoplifters could potentially dodge jail completely

Getty – Contributor

This means shoplifters could potentially dodge jail completely

Of the 65,000 offenders jailed in 2017, 47 per cent received a sentence of six months or less.

And 68 per cent of 23,645 offenders jailed for theft were sentenced to less than six months.

Furthermore, 97.9 per cent of 11,700 shoplifting offences were given a sentence less than six months as well as 90 per cent of thefts from vehicles and 60 per cent of thefts from another person.

Fewer than six per cent of house burglaries had a sentence of less than six months, and fraud, drug offences, criminal damage, assaults and public disorder make up the remainder.

 Stewart referred to research that said people are more likely to re-offend if they have short sentences

PA:Press Association

Stewart referred to research that said people are more likely to re-offend if they have short sentences

Stewart said there was evidence of lower re-offending rates after community sentences.

About 48 per cent of prisoners discharged from jail within a year re-offend, compared to 60 per cent if they are jailed for less than a year.

He said that even short jail terms were “long enough to damage you and not long enough to heal you”.

Stewart added that a community sentence would keep the public safe and it would relieve a lot pressure on the prison system.

The changes will require new laws, which are expected to be announced this year.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust and former prison governor, said: “A presumption against sentences of six months is a good idea and ministers should be congratulated in having the political courage to start the debate on it.”

He added it should not be a soft option, but a way to give offenders targets and conditions.



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