A penal system suitable for the 21st century | Letters

Louis Blom-Cooper QC says the UK’s courts should reflect that their lengthy sentences of imprisonment are no greater deterrent than short sentences. Plus Clair Hilder awaits sight of the delayed Angiolini reviewYour letters (4 September) prompt me to respond, in the light of Thursday’s Lords debate on overcrowding in prisons, initiated by Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, a distinguished retired justice of the supreme court. There should be two immediate outcomes of the debate. First, a short-term plan so that courts can reflect that their lengthy sentences of imprisonment are no greater deterrent than short sentences. The advisory council on the penal system advocated as much in its report on maximum sentences in July 1977. The courts seem nevertheless to have ignored the precept. Second, in the longer term, the government should now establish an independent review of the penal system suitable for the 21st century, reporting in two years’ time.

Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC

Member of the advisory council on the penal system from 1966 to 1978, London

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