Courts suspending more jail sentences
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.