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Should Short-Term Prison Sentences be Abolished?

January 31 2019

In criminal law, some minor crimes are punished with short-term jail sentences. Wrongdoings such as burglary and shoplifting often result in sentences of six months or less (depending on the severity of the crime).

Prison Minister, Rory Stewart has called for sentences of less than six months to be abolished. Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Stewart suggested that short jail terms are “long enough to damage you and not long enough to heal you”.

Currently, around two-thirds of prisoners re-offend within a year when released from sentences of less than 12 months. The argument is that criminals are stripped of their assets and jobs permanently but imprisoned for a short period of time, meaning that when they are released, they have little reason to remain legitimate. Additionally, whilst imprisoned, their exposure to prisoners who have committed worse crimes is suggested to influence their likelihood of re-offending.

This new approach has been welcomed by many, with some responses comparing it to the success of the Scottish custodial policy. Re-offending has dropped to its lowest level for almost 20 years in Scotland as they look to expand their existing scheme.

No decision has been made, and the Ministry of Justice has made it clear that it will be explored as an option but not set in stone yet. The proposed reform would influence around 30,000 criminals, and if successful, could reduce prison overcrowding and pressure on prison staff.

The severity and nature of the crime as well as the state of the prisoner will all have to be taken into consideration. The reform is likely to receive plenty of opposition within criminal law, however as mentioned, nothing has been implemented thus far.

At Grahame Stowe Bateson, we have a team of experienced lawyers who specialise in criminal law. With offices across Leeds and Harrogate, we can represent clients throughout the Yorkshire region.

If you need to get in touch with a reputable and reliable solicitor regarding a criminal offence or legal case, you can find the contact details for our various offices below:

·        Leeds City Centre - 0113 246 8163

·        Leeds Bramley - 0113 255 8666

·        Leeds Middleton - 0113 276 0044

·        Harrogate - 01423 562121


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