Magistrates are imposing fewer custodial sentences

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A CHARITY for prison reform has published statistics showing magistrates in Sussex imposed custodial sentences on 3.3 per cent of cases they heard in 2011.

This marks a drop from 3.7 per cent in 2006 and a drop from 5.2 per cent in 2001.

The Howard League for Penal Reform is a national charity, which believes community sentences are a more effective way of preventing crimes than sending people to prison.

The charity said magistrates’ courts in Sussex handed down 26,149 sentences during 2011, of which 875 were custodial.

Magistrates’ courts in England and Wales reduced their use of custody by a quarter between 2001 and 2011, according to the survey.

The maximum sentence magistrates can impose is a six-month prison term, or up to 12 months in total for more than one offence.

The charity’s chief executive Frances Crook said: “A short-term prison sentence is a catastrophe for everyone. It does not help change the life of the person sentenced – indeed, it is likely to compound issues such as drug addiction and make them more likely to reoffend. It costs the taxpayer a fortune and it does nothing to help victims.”