Ministers chasing 'hang 'em flog 'em headlines' on women criminals, Labour claims

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Ministers are "chasing hang 'em flog 'em headlines" and "deliberately choosing to ignore the evidence" relating to female offenders and sentencing, Labour has claimed.

Leeds East MP and Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon argued the Government was "failing to properly invest in women's centres and other proven alternatives".

Responding, Justice Minister Lucy Frazer QC said the Government was "absolutely committed to ensuring that women get the right sentences and the right provision in the community and in the prisons".

Speaking during Commons justice questions, Mr Burgon said two thirds of women sent to prison received sentences of less than six months as he branded them "ineffective".

Such sentences, he added, are "proven to lead to more re-offending and so create more victims of crime than tried and tested alternatives such as women's centres".

He said: "The Government's own research says investment in alternatives would see over 30,000 fewer crimes every year, an answer the minister omitted.

Richard Burgon, Leeds East MP. Photo: Parliament Live TV

Richard Burgon, Leeds East MP. Photo: Parliament Live TV

"Yet the Tories are deliberately choosing to ignore the evidence and are failing to properly invest in women's centres and other proven alternatives. Instead they're chasing hang 'em flog 'em headlines, thinking that will help win the coming general election.

"Luckily the British people are not the mugs that they are trying to take them for. So I ask the minister does she agree with their own department's report from July that notes, to quote, a statistically significant increase in proven re-offending for those on short sentences rather than effective community alternatives?

"If so will she act on it?"

Ms Frazer spoke about the importance the Government placed on "giving appropriate sentences to appropriate crimes and the particular strategy that we have in relation to female offenders".

She added: "We are very interested in looking at alternatives to prison sentence while we want the most serious offenders who commit serious violent and sexual crimes to spend the appropriate amount in prison.

"We also want to ensure that there are sentences on offer that the judiciary have confidence in and that will turn people's lives around."

Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff also asked about the Government’s investment in body scanners in prisons to stem the problem of drug smuggling, which she said she had discussed on a recent visit to New Hall women’s prison in Wakefield.