In the Media

Community sentences to get tougher under David Cameron plan

PUBLISHED February 24, 2012

Prime minister wants to ensure offenders who get non-custodial punishments do not get a soft option

David Cameron wants to toughen up non-custodial community sentences with new sanctions including giving courts the power to confiscate offenders' credit cards, passports and driving licences.

In a bid to curb impressions that community sentences are a soft alternative to prison, the prime minister is also proposing to electronically tag offenders and prevent them from leaving home for most of the day.

No 10's proposals to toughen up the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill were made during negotiations with the justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke.

The bill already includes plans to curfew offenders serving community sentences for 16 hours a day, with the threat of being taken back to court if they break the terms of their house arrest.

The ministry wants to publish the proposals within the next six weeks, although no final agreement has been reached.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "We want to reform community sentences to ensure that offenders are properly punished for their crimes and effectively rehabilitated and we are still considering a variety of options. We will publish a consultation setting out our proposals in due course."

As the prisons reach capacity levels, the prime minister is looking to strengthen public opinion over non-custodial sentences. In December, the National Offender Management Service (Noms) said that one in four offenders who had been given community sentences or released from prison early on licence then failed to comply with the terms set by the authorities. Noms found that 198,725 orders and licences came to an end in 2010-11, but only 150,632 were completed successfully.

The new legal aid bill is supposed to save the government ?350m-450m a year, but analysis by King's College London found that savings from restricting the availability of legal aid would be significantly less than half of that predicted.

The government has abandoned a clause that would have given police officers the power to subject suspects in police stations to means testing before they could see a lawyer. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds