Courts sus­pend­ing more jail sen­tences

Hinckley Times - - NEWS - CLAIRE MILLER hinck­ley­times@trin­i­tymir­

CRIM­I­NALS in Le­ices­ter­shire are in­creas­ingly likely to es­cape be­ing jailed and walk away with a sus­pended sen­tence.

Across the East Mid­lands re­gion, just 58 per cent of of­fend­ers with 10 or more pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tences re­ceived im­me­di­ate cus­to­dial sen­tences in 2015/16.

Le­ices­ter­shire has one of the high­est rates of sus­pended sen­tences in Eng­land and Wales, with 926 of­fend­ers given a sus­pended term in 2016, out of 14,006 who were sen­tenced.

The num­ber given sus­pended sen­tences has jumped by 11 per cent since 2012, when there were 835 given out, with an even big­ger rise since 2002, when it was just 50.

In the East Mid­lands, 5,558 of­fend­ers were sen­tenced in 2015/16 who had at least one pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tence, in­clud­ing 24 with nine and 78 with 10 or more.

There were also 22,165 of­fend­ers with no pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tences that were also sen­tenced.

This means 20 per cent of of­fend­ers sen­tenced in 2015/16 had a pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tence.

Across the re­gion, there were 2,137 of­fend­ers who had pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tences, who were sen­tenced to im­me­di­ate cus­tody in 2015/16, as well as 3,635 of­fend­ers with no pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tences.

Of­fend­ers with pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tences were more than twice as likely to be given an im­me­di­ate cus­to­dial sen­tence, 38 per cent, com­pared to those with no pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tences, 16 per cent.

For those with nine pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tences, 16 out of 24, 67 per cent, were given im­me­di­ate cus­to­dial sen­tences, and for those with 10 or more pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tences, 45 out of 78, which is 58 per cent, were im­me­di­ately jailed.

Across Eng­land and Wales, one in 22 sen­tences handed out last year was sus­pended, 4.5 per cent, with crim­i­nals nearly one-and-ahalf times more likely to avoid im­me­di­ate cus­tody com­pared to 2012, when 3.6 per cent of sen­tences were sus­pended, or one in 28.

In 2007, 2.9 per cent of sen­tenc- es were sus­pended, one in 35, and in 2002, it was just 0.2 per cent or one in ev­ery 564 handed down.

Last year was the first since at least 2002, when the pro­por­tion of sus­pended sen­tences dropped com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year, down from 4.6 per cent in 2015.

Over­all 56,317 sus­pended terms were given out in 2016, out of 1,238,035 of­fend­ers who were sen­tenced, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased by the Min­istry of Jus­tice fol­low­ing a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest.

The num­ber given sus­pended sen­tences has fallen from 57,072 in 2015, but was 26 per cent higher than in 2012, when there were 44,644 given out, with an even big­ger rise since 2002, when it was just 2,519.

If the court im­poses a term of im­pris­on­ment of be­tween 14 days and two years, it may sus­pend the sen­tence for be­tween six months and two years.

When the court sus­pends a sen­tence, it may im­pose one or more re­quire­ments for the of­fender to un­der­take in the com­mu­nity.

How­ever, a sus­pended sen­tence is not a more se­vere form of com­mu­nity pun­ish­ment but a cus­to­dial sen­tence that has been sus­pended.

Sen­tenc­ing guide­lines say a sus­pended sen­tence may be ap­pro­pri­ate for some­one with a re­al­is­tic prospect of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, strong per­sonal mit­i­ga­tion and where im­me­di­ate cus­tody will re­sult in sig­nif­i­cant harm­ful im­pact upon oth­ers.

An of­fender may be counted mul­ti­ple times where they were sen­tenced mul­ti­ple times dur­ing the year.

Whether an of­fender is given a cus­to­dial sen­tence will de­pend on whether or not that is a pos­si­ble sen­tenc­ing out­come for that of­fence within the sen­tenc­ing guide­lines.

Where an of­fender with pre­vi­ous sus­pended sen­tences is not given a cus­to­dial sen­tence for the most re­cent of­fence, they may still be jailed if a sus­pended sen­tence is still in force for a pre­vi­ous of­fence.

Ac­cord­ing to sen­tenc­ing guide­lines, if an of­fender com­mits a fur­ther of­fence dur­ing the op­er­a­tional pe­riod of a sus­pended sen­tence or­der, the court must ac­ti­vate the sus­pended sen­tence in full or in part un­less it would be un­just in all the cir­cum­stances to do so.

Rel­e­vant con­sid­er­a­tions will in­clude the ex­tent to which (if any) the of­fender com­plied with the re­quire­ments, and, where a sub­se­quent of­fence has been com­mit­ted, the facts of that of­fence.

If the court does not ac­ti­vate the sen­tence in whole or in part it must amend the or­der so as to ei­ther fine the of­fender or make the com­mu­nity re­quire­ments more oner­ous, or ex­tend the op­er­a­tional pe­riod of the sus­pended sen­tence.

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