Why we campaign for honesty in sentencing
We believe in fair and equal sentencing of criminals. There is nothing controversial in it - it's called justice.
Our sentencing system in England & Wales has been lenient to criminals and often "rewards" re-offending when prolific low level offenders get more lenient sentence than previously for the same or worse crime. Hardly any criminal stays in prison for the length set out - i.e. eight years doesn't mean eight years served in cells.
Although the review of the sentencing code and new laws have been passed to improve the situation especially for the most dangerous and violent offenders, there is still leniency when the sentences are handed down.
We are often met with a lot of opposition to the tougher approach and tangible reform of the system, but it is hard to argue that criminals should not be kept off the streets.
We believe that the views of the vast majority of the British public have been silenced and ignored when it comes to criminal justice.
Seven in ten (70%) of the general public (in England and Wales) said that sentences were too lenient, while less than one in five (17%) said that they think they were about right, and only 4% said they were too tough, according to the research published by the Sentencing Council in August 2019.
This is even higher among former police officers when they were asked about their experience and views in our own recent research. Out of 1,183 respondents 72.2% thought that sentencing for criminals in England & Wales were too lenient, and further 18.9% responded that they were lenient. 5.5% thought sentencing was right or about right and 0.4% thought it was harsh (3 people) or too harsh (1 person).
The view of 82% of victims of crime was that sentences handed to criminals were lenient.
Until now these voices have not been represented by a single organisation that calls for honesty in sentencing.
We at Restore Justice think that for far too long the successive governments and Justice Secretaries listened to those who often treat criminals as if they were the real victims. They hide behind words such as rehabilitative or restorative. But these are often proposals of measures that are designed to reduce arrests of some groups of criminals, significantly reduce custodial sentences, and make sure that criminals are released from prison even earlier than automatically at the halfway point.
Some of these proposals also involve other than prison options for dangerous prolific (career) criminals. As a result, the sentencing system is complex and confusing thus contributing to sentences being soft and dishonest.
Most criminals do not go behind bars for their first offence. We need to remember that offenders are sent to prison after it has been determined that their offence are so serious that only a custodial sentence can be imposed. Many offenders would have likely committed numerous previous offences for which they don't go to prison (see our Statistics - Offences section). Once they do, they deserve to serve a full sentence not just two-thirds or less. The restorative and rehabilitative aspects of a sentence cannot work if the correct punishment aspect for the crime doesn't exist.