Blow to campaigners for alternatives to prison
Campaigners working to promote alternatives to prison have received a blow with the revelation that judges believe most burglars should be jailed.
A survey published in Criminal Law Review has found that judges are not persuaded that there is a sufficiently punitive community penalty that would be the equivalent of imprisonment.
The surveyís findings conflict with guidelines from the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, which suggested that many burglars could receive community penalties.
Lord Woolf has worked with Christians and others for many years to explore other options besides custodial sentences. In 1994 he wrote the forward to a book by the Christian-based Relationships Foundation in Cambridge which explored the idea of ìrelational justice.î
Last December Lord Woolf issued guidelines in which he said that in burglary cases where the courts otherwise would be looking at a starting point of up to 18 monthsí imprisonment, their initial approach should be to impose a community sentence, while ensuring that the sentence was an effective punishment and that the Probation Service was tackling the criminal behaviour and any underlying problem such as drug addiction.
He proposed that community sentences should be used for most first-time convicted burglars other than the most ìaggravatedî circumstances.
The authors of the new survey Professor Malcolm Davies and Jane Tyrer were critical. They said that contrary to Lord Woolfís insistence that his burglary guidelines in December were a ìchange of emphasisî, they were a ìsignificant departure from practiceî.
The survey said that the guidelines undermined ìboth the logic of the existing legislation and the assumptions made by judgesî.
The academics based their research on the opinions of 51 judges from 11 Crown Courts in England and Wales.