Senior judge slams short sentences

A senior judge has described short prison sentences as "expensive and largely ineffectual" in deterring criminals from reoffending - amid claims that thousands go on to commit further crimes.

Judge Paul Darlow called for tougher punishments, such as increased constraints on offenders' free time as well as confiscating their cars, in an effort to combat crime.

He also said the public had largely lost confidence in community sentences, which often involve criminals completing unpaid work in their local area.

Speaking to the Plymouth Herald, the city's new resident Crown Court judge said: "Custody, particularly when applied to short-term periods, has been shown to be expensive and largely ineffectual in preventing reoffending.

"It does serve a limited purpose in keeping some offenders out of circulation for short periods of time. However, the other side of the coin is the public perception of community orders as focusing on the rehabilitation and not the punishment of the offender."

His comments come amid claims in the Daily Mail that almost 400 criminals carrying out community service reoffend before completing their punishment every week.

The newspaper said it had uncovered statistics using the Freedom of Information Act which showed more than 20,000 people reoffended last year while subject to community service orders. It said a similar number were brought back before the courts for failing to complete the orders.

In response to the figures, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The majority of offenders successfully complete their community sentences and do not go on to commit further crimes.

"However, reoffending rates are too high, which is why we are reforming the criminal justice system so offenders are properly punished and the root causes of their behaviour addressed.

"We have completed a consultation on the future shape of community sentences to make them tougher and will set out our approach in due course."