Prison sentences more likely in city

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Milton Keynes magistrates are more likely to send someone to prison compared to courts in other parts of the country, according to the latest figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform.

New research by the charity shows people convicted of a crime face a postcode lottery when being sentenced, with courts in the Thames Valley imposing custodial sentences more often than the national average.

The statistics illustrate a striking disparity between sentencing rates, as courts in the Thames Valley enforced prison sentences in 3.9 per cent of the cases they heard in 2011 – compared to 1.5 per cent in Warwickshire and 1.6 per cent in Northumbria.

The national average is 3.8 per cent.

The statistics have been published as Ministry of Justice figures show that short-term prison sentences are failing to cut crime.

Increasingly, magistrates are making better use of community sentences, which are more likely to reduce crime and help turn lives around.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is pleasing to see that magistrates’ courts are sending fewer people to prison overall than they have in the past. “However one cannot ignore the striking disparity in sentencing trends between different criminal justice areas.”

She added: “A court which imposes short prison sentences increases the likelihood of local people becoming victims of crime, because the failure rate is so high.”