Prisons in Parliament

Sentencing power for magistrates and dementia in prison: debated this week


Birmingham magistrates court. Image: Elliot Brown

Prisons in Parliament brings you up-to-date with all the key debates and the highlights you missed.

Increased power for magistrates: what impact will it have? 

The Magistrates’ Association have requested an increase in the maximum penalty they can impose, from six to 12 months. Campaigners and Lords are divided on the impact this will have.

“We are committed to ensuring that the magistracy remains at the centre of our justice system. We are actively considering the possibility of increasing the sentencing powers for magistrates as one way in which we can make sure that this is the case” said Lord Faulkes.

90 per cent of criminal cases in the justice system are dealt with by magistrates. Baroness Seccombe suggested that increasing sentencing power would decrease delays in court and therefore minimise the associated costs for these cases.

Both the Prison Reform Trust and the Howard League however, argue there should be a decrease in sentencing powers to help reduce our rising prison population.

Read the full debate here.


Treating dementia in prison

Mark Menzies MP asked what services there are for prison inmates with dementia and what budget there is for their treatment.

“Health services in prisons are commissioned by NHS England to meet the health needs of prisoners” said health minister Ben Gummer. Adding that “prisoners with dementia who also have care and support needs… will be met by the local authority in which the prison is situated”

Mr Gummer could not provide a  budget, explaining that it is not broken down by diagnosis.


Veterans in prison: how many are there?

How many male and female veterans are there in the criminal justice system? Asked Emma Lewell-Buck MP. 

“Between July and December 2015, 1,439 former members of the armed forces entered prison. Of these, 1,399 were male and 40 were female” said Mike Penning MP.

NOMs began collecting data on veterans in prison from July 2015. The full data set can be found here.

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