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Community Orders: Females

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 369, tabled on 14 October 2019

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether it remains his Department's policy to manage female offenders in the community through a community order, who would otherwise face a short prison sentence.

Answered on

23 October 2019

We are clear that sentencing must match the severity of a crime and public protection is our priority. The Sentencing Bill, announced in the Queens Speech, will contain a range of measures targeted at the most serious violent and sexual offenders to ensure their punishment reflects the severity of their crimes. It will also contain proposals for community penalties that offer an appropriate level of punishment, while tackling the underlying drivers of offending. While custody should be available as a last resort, if we are to break the cycle of reoffending, solutions will often lie in community sentences, including those which address offenders’ behaviour, answer their mental health and alcohol or drug misuse needs, or provide reparation for the benefit of the wider community.

We remain committed to the vision and aims set out in our Female Offender Strategy (June 2018); which aims to see fewer women in custody. There is persuasive evidence that many women, particularly on short custodial sentences, can be better supported in the community on robust and effective community sentences. Where a woman needs to be in custody, we want to provide rehabilitative regimes specifically tailored to women’s needs to break the reoffending cycle. However, we know that for many vulnerable women, with the right support at the right time, there are opportunities to prevent them from entering the criminal justice system at all. Publication of the Strategy was the start of a new and significant programme of work to deliver better outcomes for female offenders that will take some years to deliver.

Lord Farmer’s review, The Importance of Strengthening Female Offenders' Family and other Relationships to Prevent Reoffending and Reduce Intergenerational Crime, continued his work on the importance of family ties in improving outcomes for offenders, by looking at the issues for female offenders in the community and custody. We welcome the findings and recommendations of the review and we are committed to taking this important area of work forward. The 33 recommendations cover a number of Government departments, and officials are working at pace to see how we can best give effect to them in both the short and longer term. We have accepted Lord Farmer’s recommendation for this work to be embedded into joint policy and operational Family Strategy Working Group (FWSG), which is already taking forward implementation of the original Farmer Review. We are reporting to Lord Farmer with progress on a quarterly basis.