Magistrates demand more power

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Magistrates have said they want their sentencing powers to be doubled so they can imprison people for up to 12 months.

The move will save around £65 million, claimed John Thornhill, who chairs the Magistrates' Association.

Addressing the group's annual general meeting in London, Mr Thornhill said members were "ready to accept greater responsibility".

Powers under section 154 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 should be brought into use, he said.

According to Mr Thornhill, this will save "approximately £25 million in reduced custody and in the region of £40 million in trial costs".

But he added: "We believed there was support for such implementation but a recent comment from a senior Ministry of Justice official would indicate differently."

Mr Thornhill called on the Lord Chancellor, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, "to confirm one way or the other what the Government's current thinking is on this matter".

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