Police Federation

'Short prison sentence removal would be absurd'

3 April 2019

Scrapping 12-month or less prison sentences would be absurd without investment in policing and probation services and could render the new assaults on emergency workers bill useless, says National Chair John Apter.

The Justice Committee has today released its full report addressing concerns over the growing prison population and reoffending.

It concurred with the Government’s view that ineffective prison sentences of less and six months should be removed whilst further suggesting this should be extended to include 12-month sentences.

National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter, said: “First and foremost, this is all driven by cost saving, it is not driven by the needs of the victim who must be at the heart of any decisions - to ignore them is to ignore justice. We talk about prison overcrowding and the pressure this adds to the prison system. The simple solution is to build more prisons. Sadly, it is clear that with the current Government that is not going to happen.

“What this country needs is a full review and reform of the criminal justice system; people are being sent to prison who shouldn’t be and visa-versa. This is perverse, and it is wrong.

“Where appropriate rehabilitation must be the ultimate aim, and I fully accept that prison is not the right option for many people who find themselves in front of a court. And when it comes to young offenders we should do everything as a society to divert them away from prison. However for the most violent or prolific offenders prison must always be an option.”

Reoffending currently costs the Government £15 billion a year which results in less funding allocated to rehabilitative initiatives which would help curb this issue, the report said.

The prison population has grown significantly from 44,246 in 1993 to 82,384 as at December 2018, but has remained relatively stable since 2012. However, the amount spent on prisons has fallen in recent years, it added – advising the Treasury to keep in mind the implications in the run up to the next spending review.

Mr Apter continued: “To just decide to do away with prison sentences of 12 months or less without investing in the wider criminal justice system is ill conceived and flies against the needs of the victim.

“If we have a probation service on its knees supported by a police service also on its knees who is going monitoring these criminals to ensure our communities protected?

“And it must be remembered that there are some offenders who cannot be rehabilitated – violent offenders who have no comprehension or care for victims, or what is right and wrong. I make no apology in saying these people need to see the inside of a prison cell to make sure they are not a danger to society.”

But there are concerns that if the removal of short prison sentences came to fruition it would undo PFEW’s hard work on the Protect the Protectors campaign, with John adding offenders would be “getting away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist”.

On 13 November 2018, a new law came into effect doubling the maximum sentence for assaults to police officers and other emergency service workers from six to 12 months after the Federation worked alongside MPs to ensure the issue was debated in Parliament.

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