05:37, July 18 50 0 theguardian.com

2019-07-18 05:37:05
David Gauke urges MoJ successor to scrap short prison sentences

David Gauke has used what is likely to be his valedictory speech as a cabinet minister to urge his successor to scrap short prison sentences.

The justice secretary, speaking in London, said new government research showed that about two-thirds of offenders on jail terms of less than 12 month would reoffend, compared with a third of those given a court order. The findings had reinforced his view that moving away from terms of up to six months would deliver change.

He said this could be done by introducing a bar to prevent the courts using them or at least a presumption against using them – as had been done in Scotland for terms of up to 12 months.

Gauke, along with the chancellor, Philip Hammond, is among a group of senior Tories strongly opposed to a no-deal Brexit, dubbed the “Gaukward squad”.

Gauke, who has also spoken out against the poisonous impact of populist politicians in Britain, is expected to be removed from cabinet after 18 months heading up the Ministry of Justice after the likely election of Boris Johnson as Tory leader and prime minister next week.

Gauke, alluding to his expected departure, said: “I believe that the approach that I’ve set out today – indeed the approach I have set out in the last 18 months – is one that is most likely to be effective in reducing reoffending and therefore reducing crime.

“I am aware that is is an approach that will not have universal support but I have taken great encouragement from the widespread support for an evidence-led, rehabilitative and humane agenda.

“It is my hope that in the years ahead – whoever has the privilege of being justice secretary – it is an approach that will be pursued with persistence and determination and courage. And that will help deliver a safer and more civilised society.”

The MoJ research, published on Thursday, shows the estimated cost of reoffending is more than £18.1bn a year in England and Wales, which covers cost to victims, police and wider public services.

The data shows that 64% of offenders released from custody between April and June 2017 after a short custodial sentence of less than 12 months reoffended within a year – almost double the 34% rate for those on a court order, such as a community sentence or suspended jail term.

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