the probation service would have as law enforcers within the criminal
head office, he said it was more important than ever that community
punishment commanded public confidence.
Calling for a wide public debate on proposals to reform sentencing he
'I am not going to be partisan about it. How criminals are punished -
and how we ensure they don't offend again - is too important to be
left to judges and politicians alone. So I want to hear what people
think: not just those who have a traditional role or official
interest in the criminal justice system, but those who have a right
to be involved and to be consulted - the public who are so often
'The probation service of the future will need to fulfil a
fundamentally different role from before as a law enforcement agency,
and as an integrated part of the criminal justice system, working
alongside the police, crown prosecution service and prison service to
Kick starting the public debate, the home secretary said:
'I want to ask people to actively join in a debate, so that together
we can work out a new, common sense, effective approach to
sentencing. A system that is fair and is seen to be fair, a system
which can show it reduces reoffending and where offenders make
reparation to their victims and the local community. We need a more
transparent sentencing structure that will command public support and
Mr Blunkett made it clear that while he wanted prison sentences to
protect the public from the most dangerous offenders, short custodial
sentences provided little opportunity to change the offenders
behaviour and problems which put people in prison in the first place.
Following the publication of the Halliday Review and the home office
consultation on sentencing reform, Mr Blunkett said he was
particularly keen to hear people's views on six key issues:
- Reducing reoffending - should a sentence just be about punishing
the guilty or is preventing reoffending important as well?
- Reparation (recompense) to the victim or the community is this
- Community sentences - what makes a community sentence an effective
alternative to prison?
- Intermittent prison - where an offender has to report for
imprisonment during certain hours, but for the rest of the time is
able to stay with his family and keep his job - is this a good idea?
- Custody Minus - where a convicted offender is given a
prison sentence but it is suspended on condition that
the offender completes a demanding programme of
activity in the community. If he fails to complete
this he would automatically go to prison.
- Violent and dangerous offenders - no longer an automatic release
once half to two-thirds of the sentence has been served but judges
would order convicted criminals to serve their full sentence in
prison with tough follow-on community supervision.
Throughout September home office ministers will be making a series of
regional visits to hear people's views and to call on local media to
facilitate debate on this important issue of effective punishments
targeted at those offenders who damage the lives of individual
victims and local communities.
Opening the new head office for South Yorkshire Probation, the home
'Reforms on the lines of those proposed by the Halliday Review will
have a significant impact on the probation service. Public scrutiny
will demand more than ever that the service ensures that community
sentences command public credibility, are run to high standards and
demonstrably cut reoffending.'
At the new head office, the home secretary met with offenders on the
Prolific Offenders Programme and with local probation staff who said
the programme had been credited with stopping up to 450 crimes and
probably saved victims and public services£864,000. He also met men
and women whose work with Drink-Drivers significantly cuts the
likelihood of convicted offenders driving drunk again, halving their
1. Members of the general public can participate in the debate by
writing to the home secretary at Fairer Sentencing, room 347, Home
Office, 50 Queen Anne's Gate London SW1H 9AT, or by e-mail on
home.secretary@fairer- sentencing.co.uk, or by fax on 020 7273 3583.
2. For further information see the websitededicated to the
sentencing reform debate.
3. Home secretary's speech to the National Probation Service on
sentencing reform following the publication of the Halliday Review on
5 July 2001 is available here.
4. POPS (the prolific offender project) is run jointly by the
Probation Service with the Police. Offenders are placed under
intensive supervision and given guidance about drugs and issues such
as housing and work. Those that reoffend are quickly detected. Police
calculate that for the first 16 offenders on the course, given their
known offending patterns and previous convictions, that had they
continued to offend 450 would have been committed while they were
under the scheme.
5. The Drink Impaired Driver Programme, already independently
assessed and being copied nationally, reduces usual reconviction
rates for drink driver from over one in four being reconvicted within
two years, to just over one in 10.
6. The social exclusion unit is currently working with the home
office and other government departments on ways to cut rates of
reoffending by ex-prisoners, in particular by boosting levels of
employment and lowering homelessness. The unit's period of research
is now drawing to a close, and it is due to report to the prime
minister later in the year.