Home / Insights / Blog / Lib Dems urge ‘robust’ penalties

Lib Dems urge ‘robust’ penalties

Lib Dems urge ‘robust’ penalties

The Liberal Democrat conference is calling for a presumption in favour of “robust” community penalties for offenders instead of “ineffective and costly” short-term prison sentences.

Meanwhile, a senior party figure has urged new Justice Secretary Chris Grayling not to become “trapped” by hard-line Conservative rhetoric on criminal justice issues. Sir Alan Beith, chairman of the cross-party Justice Select Committee, implored Mr Grayling not to abandon the “constructive” coalition process on criminal justice issues that occurred under his predecessor Ken Clarke.

The Lib Dems want judges to hand down less prison sentences of up to six months, using “robust” community-related penalties instead when possible. The conference also supported a move to make funding public prisons – as new privately-run jails are – dependent on how effectively they cut re-offending. “Coalition is not comfortable, it is not meant to be,” said Sir Alan at the Lib Dems’ Brighton conference, “it is different parties that disagree with each other.” He said the coalition was “constructive” on criminal justice, adding: “So I say to the new Justice Secretary: let’s keep it that way, don’t get trapped by any of your past rhetoric, still less the rhetoric of some of your backbenchers.”

Joanne Gibbons, Partner at IBB Solicitors, said:

“Recent comments raised at the Lib Democrats conference has once again stirred the debate on whether custodial sentences should be the last resort when dealing with convicted offenders. The cost element is the first thing that is debated, with many arguing that a stint in custody costs thousands of pounds to the tax payer, with little end result. Leaving the cost element to one side, custodial sentences often do little because potential opportunities for rehabilitation are lost when someone is incarcerated. Whilst it is accepted that courses are available in prisons, the effects either wear away when an inmate is released due to the lack of support, or there isn’t enough time for the effects to kick in due to the short periods handed at the magistrates’ court level.

Community Orders, on the other hand give the committed offender all the help he needs to address root causes of his offending. Access to linked organisations provide a further support layer as problems faced by offenders are never one dimensional. Society benefits through the offender’s rehabilitation and by the work that he does to repair his bond with society. However, the right balance must be struck. Make it too easy, the benefits will never show, but make it too hard, it could set an individual up to fail.”

We have one of the leading teams of criminal law specialists in West London and the South East. If you are facing a serious criminal charge, you can contact one of IBB’s Criminal Defence team, call us on 08456 381381 or email criminaldefence@ibblaw.co.uk.