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Thursday, January 24, 2019

AM challenges First Minister over prison figures

With figures showing that Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe, North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood (pictured) has challenged the First Minister over what action he plans to take to address this.

Raising the matter with Mark Drakeford yesterday he said: “Of course, we already know that the prison and probation service in Wales will be responsible for probation again from 2020 in Wales, with a focus on communities, community sentencing and rehabilitation.

"But, given that the Wales Governance Centre analysis found that under the Westminster criminal justice system, as it was earlier termed, the total number of prison sentences in England between 2010-17 dropped 16 per cent but went up 0.3 per cent in Wales, and that custodial sentences imposed by magistrates in Wales went up 12 per cent, what dialogue will you endeavour to have, perhaps, with the Judiciary and with the Magistracy, to establish their reasons within Wales for this, when I know, many years ago, in taking evidence in Assembly Committee, when similar geographical differences were found, they put a case to us that we were able to consider?” 

The First Minister replied: “Why rates have risen in the way they have in Wales is a complex matter. There is an increasingly punitive climate of opinion that some analysts point to. There are certainly changes to legislation. There were over 3,000 new offences put on the statute book in 10 years from 1997 to 2007. We in this Assembly have put fresh offences on the statute book in the work that we do.

"There are the impacts of sentencing guidelines and guideline judgments that have had the effect of increasing length of sentences, quite certainly, and there is the issue of, as some sentencers put it, a collapse in confidence in the probation service. I said in answer to Leanne Wood that we welcomed strengthening probation, building confidence, in the consultation with the Ministry of Justice last summer. We'll do what we can within that, but want to go further.”

Mr Isherwood added: “Such a difference in delivery between England and Wales within what is a shared criminal justice system provides yet another reason why the calls for devolution of criminal justice by Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs must not be answered."

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