We must do all we can to address the issues around female offending, so that more women are rehabilitated and the public is better protected. Considering how best to address the needs of female offenders, to improve outcomes for them, their families and their communities, is a complex issue that is important we get right. At present, the Government is developing the Female Offender Strategy which will be published in due course, and I look forward to scrutinising it in full.
While sentences in individual cases are decided by the courts, who take into account guidelines issued by the independent Sentencing Council, it is important that there are robust community options available to sentencers so that vulnerable women with complex needs, including those with children, are only sent to prison when it is absolutely necessary. Prison should be reserved for the most serious offences, and custody should not be imposed where a community order could provide sufficient restriction on an offender’s liberty as a means of punishment while also allowing for rehabilitation.
As well as the strategy for female offenders to improve outcomes for women in custody and in the community, £1 million seed funding is being invested between 2016 and 2020 to help local areas develop improved, multi-agency approaches to support female offenders in their area. I welcome the Government’s commitment to making sure that as many women as possible are effectively rehabilitated in the community to better protect the public and deliver better outcomes for female offenders and their families.