Sentencing (Green Paper): 14th December 2010

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
Does my hon. Friend not agree that there is a danger in just looking at statistics, in that we do not know or understand the level of criminality that lies behind them? If we look at the figures and then the length of sentences, we can see that they refer to prolific, but low-level offenders. The Green Paper seeks to address the situation of those ​criminals who are not the serious criminals—serious criminals will continue to be sent to prison for a long time. This is about short-term sentences of under 18 months. That is why I commend the Green Paper—or I will do in due course—to the House and to my hon. Friend.

Mr Hollobone
I disagree with my hon. Friend. I understand that we are not talking about serious offences. None the less, it is very serious to my constituents that someone can be convicted 75 times. That person is very nasty and is committing lots of very low-level crimes and they deserve to spend a long time in prison.

Anna Soubry
Let us take that example. That could be someone who is, for example, committing shop thefts on a regular basis. The maximum sentence for something such as that would be around 12 months at the most, or 18 months if they were very unfortunate. This is a persistent but very low-level offender. Clearly, in the example that my hon. Friend puts forward, prison is not working, because the person keeps on committing crimes and keeps on going back to prison. It is to end that revolving door that we are doing the things that have been laid out in the Green Paper. That person is not necessarily a nasty person; they are not violent otherwise they would go away for a lot longer. Those who steal from shops are exactly the sort of people we are addressing.
 
Mr Edward Leigh (in the Chair)
Order. Interventions should be shorter.

Mr Hollobone
I am sorry, but that person is a nasty person. Just because someone is not violent does not mean that they are not nasty. I contend that the reason that they are reoffending is that they never serve their sentence in full. Even if someone is sentenced to 18 months for shoplifting, no one in this country will ever serve such a sentence. They might be sentenced to that, but the chances are that they will be out reoffending within six months. My contention is that such people need to be in jail for at least a year to enable proper rehabilitation to take place.