Letting muggers go free gives green light to crime' says Ruffley

Tuesday, 6 December, 2005

David Ruffley MP expressed concern this week at new sentencing guidelines from a Government quango which will allow many convicted muggers to avoid jail.

Previous sentencing rules said that all muggers should expect severe punishment - with a jail sentence as the norm. But, under the new rules for the courts, young robbers will only receive a community sentence as standard. Yet two-thirds of all mobile phone thieves are under 18.

Worse, official Government figures show that last year only 1 in 7 muggers in Suffolk Western Basic Command Unit were caught and brought to justice.

David said:

'This 'get out of jail free' card sends a dangerous signal to would-be muggers and gives the green light to more street crime in Suffolk. Letting young muggers escape jail could lead to a surge in robberies, putting local people who carry goods like mobile phones or iPods at particular risk.

'Robbery is a violent crime that is utterly inexcusable and is very a traumatic experience for the victim. Last year 6 out of 7 muggers across West Suffolk get away with their actions and their victims are not seeing justice done. These figures have shown an improvement since March with 30% of the 35 recorded incidents of robberies being solved.

'Community sentences have a place for minor crimes. But robbery is so serious that a prison sentence should be the norm both to deter and punish muggers.'

Notes to Editors

Don't jail muggers says Labour quango

The Sentencing Guidelines Council, based in London, issues advice to assist all courts in England and Wales on the length and severity of punishments for crimes. The quango was established by the Government under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

On 28 November 2005, the Council published new draft guidelines for robbery offences.



Under the proposed new rules, the starting point for young offenders who rob with threats or minimal force will now be a community sentence. Only if a youth produces a weapon or injures their victim, they will be handed between one and six years' imprisonment. Liberal Democrats have supported these changes.

Prior to the creation of the Sentencing Guidelines Council, the Lord Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal produced sentencing guidelines. In January 2002, the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, pledged a 'get tough' sentencing policy to combat the rising tide of mobile phone robberies. He warned would-be mobile muggers should expect severe punishment and said that, except in very exceptional circumstances, a custodial sentence 'will be the only option available to the courts'. He said it would apply 'irrespective of the age of the offender and irrespective of whether the offender has previous convictions'. The lowest appropriate sentence was 18 months, but terms of up to three years would be imposed for offences involving no weapons. Lord Woolf's policy will now be dropped.