Commenting on the government's announcement of a sentencing review, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“A review should start with some facts. Sentences for violent and sexual offending have gone up very substantially over the last 15 years. After the appalling fiasco of the discredited IPP sentence introduced in a similar atmosphere in 2003, courts now have the option of extended determinate sentences which do everything the Prime Minister says he wants. And polling over many years has shown that the public consistently underestimates the actual severity of sentencing for serious crime.

"Stoking up public anxiety with unevidenced assertions is a poor way to start a review that needs to take a dispassionate approach to a complex issue.”

Commenting on the government's commitment to build additional prison places, Peter Dawson said:

"Doing away with overcrowded and outdated prisons makes a lot of sense. But governments have been promising that for decades and they always underestimate what's involved. According to the prison service 's own figures it would take 9000 new spaces just to eliminate overcrowding - not a single dilapidated prison could be taken out of use before that figure was reached. Current projections suggest a further 3000 new spaces will be needed just to absorb sentences already passed. And we know the aggressive rhetoric of "prison works" invariably drives up the use of imprisonment long before the capacity to deal with that has been created.

"Half baked policy on prisons always runs up against inconvenient reality. Tough rhetoric is no substitute for understanding the evidence. "