Sentence reform U-turn serves up hard cheese in prisons

Prison cell at Wormwood Scrubs There is much more to come on sentencing policy

Boris Johnson helpfully pointed out in the Sun that soft was good for a French cheese, but not for the government's sentencing policy.

As he must have known David Cameron and Ken Clarke had already reached that conclusion.

Now they are to drop their plan to allow any criminals to serve just half of their sentences if they plead guilty early. There is, though, much more to come.

I hear that there will be concessions too on their much more significant plan to review indeterminate public protection prison sentences.

These were a New Labour innovation intended to allow judges to lock up prisoners until they were no longer judged to be a serious threat to the public.

There are around 6,000 prisoners serving so-called IPPs - 3,500 have completed their terms but are still being held inside.

The Ministry of Justice had planned to change the "serious risk" test to reduce the number serving IPPs and cut prison numbers. That change is now, I'm told, to be reviewed.

Meantime, the prime minister will announce tomorrow that those serving time for the most serious offences - rape, murder etc - will, in future, no longer be eligible for 50% remission for good behaviour.

In another Sun and Mail pleasing gesture, prisoners will be made to work harder, longer, to pay more compensation to their victims.

For liberal justice reformers this sounds - or is, perhaps, meant to sound - like very hard cheese indeed.

UPDATE: Forgive my late night schoolboy error. Murderers serving life sentences are not eligible for remission for good behaviour. However, other serious offenders are. It is they who look set to hear today that they are no longer eligible for so much time off for good behaviour.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    time to get harsh. NO time off for good behaviour, time ADDED for bad behaviour. All prisoners work for their keep, if they don't do a good job they don't get fed. No TV unless it's earned, get rid of the xboxes and PS3 's, snooker tables etc. They're the ones who've proven they're not fit for society why should they have a better ride than their victims. Oh and life MEANS LIFE!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    pdavies65 208

    Quote from BBC article on reductions in US crime -

    'Through Democrat and Republican administrations and through booms and busts, crime has been falling since 1991'

    What changed shortly before the fall in crime ? Prison sentences increased. Similarly in the UK there has been a prolonged reduction in crime since prison sentences were increased.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.


    Of course its a trifle dissingenuous to blame any one government for the crisis. Certainly none of the last few have helped the situation. It has been a gradual build up of trouble over many years.

    A little pointless to place blame. Lets look to fixing it instead. And avoid press knee jerk outrage every time a change is suggested. If there was an easy answer, we wouldn't be here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    The system is crazy. The judge decides the sentence using sentencing guidlines. Then a parole board decide a few years later that the sentence was wrong and make it shorter! The judges sentence should be stuck to and the prison/parole authorities can decide if you should stay in longer if your behaviour and rehab is poor. Victims would then know the exact level of punishment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Here's a radical idea: the time spent in gaol should not depend on the offence but on the rehabilitation of the offender - a convict does not get let out until he has completed education course, therapy, come off drugs and anything else deemed necessary for him to face up to what he did wrong and turn his life around so that he does not offend again upon release.


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