JUSTICE – SENTENCING POLICY – 28 January 2020
[Sir Desmond Swayne: Would the public’s confidence not be served if prisoners served the sentence that was delivered in court, rather than this fabrication whereby the sentence is announced and everybody works out on the back of a fag packet what it actually means for the sentence that will be served? Why go for two thirds, up from a half – why not have the sentence that was delivered in court by a judge served?]
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Dr Julian Lewis: I am grateful to the Minister [Chris Philp] for giving way again. May I offer a refinement on the suggestion made by my constituency neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne)? We understand why one wants to give prisoners who are serving a sentence an incentive to behave well in jail, but that could be achieved without this upset of the public perception that someone is getting a longer sentence than they are really getting. Prisoners could be given the sentence that they are going to serve, with the expectation that if they misbehave, it can be extended by a certain amount, rather than their being given a sentence that they can reduce by a certain amount if they behave themselves in prison. That would avoid the perception among the public that the Government are trying to con them into believing that the sentences being imposed are more severe than we all know them to be in reality.
[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Philp): I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. I should make it clear – I will explain this in a bit more detail in a moment – that the standard determinate sentences under discussion today have an automatic release point. The current release point, at 50% of the sentence, is not contingent on good behaviour; it is automatic. We are proposing to remove that automatic release point to two thirds as a first step, but, of course, there are other things that we could do in the area that he has just mentioned. Examining and investigating the clarity of sentencing decisions and how the public understand them are certainly matters that the sentencing White Paper and sentencing Bill can properly look at, and I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising that.]