Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Tuesday, 19 October 2010 15:33 UK

Short prison sentences 'will not be abolished'

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has told MPs that the number of short prison sentences should be reduced and replaced with "more credible community punishment sentences" - but he insisted that they would not be abolished altogether.

At question time on 19 October 2010, Tory MP Philip Davies said: "The vast majority of people who serve short sentences only do so because they've been given community sentence after community sentence and they've failed - and the last thing to do with those people is to give them another community sentence for it to fail once again."

Mr Clarke told him: "I largely agree with you. You've probably been upset by reports that I am minded to abolish short prison sentences.

"Actually I have always expressed precisely the opposite feeling - this has never been my view, that we should abolish all short prison sentences.

"I actually rather share your opinion that with the kind of irritating recidivist offender who's causing a lot of damage, if they offend over and over again, there is no alternative quite often but to a short prison sentence."

He added: "There are too many of them and there are cases where you can avoid the use of short prison sentences but we've got to have some very effective alternative when you do."

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan asked: "Will you commit today that you won't reduce in any way the power of magistrates to give a custodial sentence when it's appropriate?"

Mr Clarke said: "Of course we're not going to take away powers from the magistrates courts.

"But the thing we have to do is provide magistrates with the full range of alternatives - more credible community punishment sentences, with a properly punitive element which might have a better chance of rehabilitating the offender."

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