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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 23:32 GMT 00:32 UK
Therapy 'no alternative to jail'
Domestic violence photo staged by actors
MPs say more evidence is needed about alternatives to jail
MPs say they oppose plans to send people who commit domestic violence to therapy classes instead of jail.

The home affairs committee says there is insufficient evidence that so-called "perpetrator programmes" are good enough alternatives to prison.

A report on draft sentencing guidelines says it is "inappropriate" to reward remorse with non-custodial sentences given how often offenders relapsed.

The MPs called for caution on the proposal until there was more evidence.

The Sentencing Guidelines Council's proposals, published in April, suggested suspended sentences or community orders could be used where a short spell in prison is being considered and there is a good chance of reform.

The condition would be that offenders have to attend a domestic violence programme.

Violent crime

But in their report, the select committee said: "We recommend a cautious approach to domestic violence perpetrators' programmes until more evidence is available as to their effectiveness.

"We therefore recommend that perpetrators' programmes should not be seen as an alternative sentence to a custodial sentence where the latter would otherwise be justified.

"Instead, we recommend that accredited perpetrators' programmes should be an additional sentencing option for both custodial and non-custodial sentences."

The committee also concluded that the progress of offenders who plead guilty and voluntarily take part in a domestic violence programme could be considered in sentencing.

The MPs support moves to treat domestic violence as seriously as other violent crime.

John Denham, the committee's Labour chairman, said: "The central message of the guidelines is that the crimes involved in domestic violence are serious and should be sentenced accordingly.

"But some parts of the guidelines could allow inappropriate sentencing by putting weight on therapeutic programmes and individual remorse that would not be given such emphasis in other violent crime.

"These aspects of the guidelines should be changed."

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