The government did not seek responses to its white paper, A Smarter Approach to Sentencing, published in September 2020. But we understand that a bill implementing some of its proposals may well be tabled early in 2021.

In response we have prepared an analysis of those elements of the paper in which PRT has significant knowledge and interest. We hope this will assist others who share both our concerns and our hopes for different elements of the white paper’s approach, and inform parliamentary scrutiny of any bill that results from it.

While there is plenty in the white paper to welcome, much of it repeats the very worst errors of other governments over the last two decades in relation to sentencing. As the analysis points out, the incoherence and cruelty of proposals concerning those convicted of serious offences cannot be offset or excused by the more considered measures aimed at those convicted of less serious crime.

Given the challenges the country faces, it seems extraordinary that a bill to implement such an unevidenced and confused White Paper should command any priority in the new year. But if it does, parliament must subject it to the detailed scrutiny and challenge it plainly needs and which the absence of consultation in its preparation has prevented.

Click here to download a copy of the briefing.