West Mid­land mag­is­trates twice as likely to jail of­fend­ers

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

MAG­IS­TRATES in the West Mid­lands jailed nearly 3,000 peo­ple last year – with courts in the area twice as likely to send peo­ple to prison than else­where in the country.

In 2017, mag­is­trates’ courts in the West Mid­lands po­lice force area jailed 2,947 peo­ple, or 7.5 per cent of all those con­victed. This meant crim­i­nals were two times more likely to be sent to jail than in Eng­land and Wales as a whole, where 3.8 per cent of those con­victed were jailed.

Prison re­form cam­paign­ers said ev­i­dence showed short bursts of im­pris­on­ment led to more of­fend­ing and more vic­tims, so alarm bells rang when some courts were jail­ing peo­ple more fre­quently than oth­ers.

Among those given cus­to­dial sen­tences last year were eight of­fend­ers aged be­tween 12 and 14, and 94 who were aged be­tween 15 and 17, ac­cord­ing to the fig­ures pub­lished by the Min­istry of Jus­tice.

For those jailed, the most com­mon type of of­fence com­mit­ted were theft of­fences, which led to 1,263 peo­ple be­ing jailed in the West Mid­lands in 2017.

As well as be­ing more likely to jail peo­ple over­all, mag­is­trates in the West Mid­lands were 1.5 times more likely to send peo­ple to prison for crim­i­nal dam­age and ar­son – jail­ing 18 per cent of those con­victed, com­pared to 12 per cent across Eng­land.

Courts in the West Mid­lands were also more likely to jail peo­ple for vi­o­lence against the per­son (send­ing 32.6 per cent of of­fend­ers to jail com­pared to 24.8 per cent across Eng- land and Wales), sex­ual of­fences (19.7 per cent against 15.9 per cent), and pub­lic or­der of­fences (26.7 per cent against 23.2 per cent).

Mag­is­trates’ courts can sen­tence peo­ple for up to six months in prison (or up to 12 months in to­tal for more than one of­fence).

An­drew Neil­son, Di­rec­tor of Cam­paigns at the Howard League for Pe­nal Re­form, said: “When mag­is­trates send some­one to prison, they are mak­ing a choice that can have dis­as­trous con­se­quences. Short pris- on sen­tences are a catas­tro­phe for ev­ery­one. As the govern­ment has recog­nised in re­cent an­nounce­ments, the ev­i­dence shows that short bursts of im­pris­on­ment lead to more of­fend­ing and more vic­tims.

“When sen­tenc­ing prac­tices vary so sig­nif­i­cantly from re­gion to re­gion, it only strength­ens the ar­gu­ment for re­mov­ing from mag­is­trates the power to sen­tence peo­ple to prison – and to look in­stead at redi­rect­ing their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to help­ing peo­ple to lead crime-free lives.”

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