An influential group of Tories from a leading pressure group has told the Sentencing Council that including poverty as a mitigating factor in jail terms is “extremely patronising.”
This morning, 26 Conservative MPs from the Blue Collar Group urged the council to drop “difficult and/or deprived background or personal circumstances” from the consultation, saying that it was patronising to “law-abiding working class communities.”
Other circumstances that could lead to a reduced sentence include experience of discrimination, negative experiences of authority, and having been in care.
The Tory group, which boasts over 100 MPs, said in its letter to the Sentencing Council that “it is actually those who come from the poorest communities who will be the victims of the crimes in these cases.”
They added: “We object very strongly to this new mitigating factor being included and note that we are not alone as it seems that, according to your consultation document, only a minority of judges and magistrates shared positive views when asked to comment on the proposed change in focus group discussions.”
Philip Davies, who co-founded the Blue Collar Conservatives group 10 years ago, said: “This is completely outrageous and patronising. If Parliament wanted to pass a law to ensure softer sentences were passed because people were brought up in poverty then that would be bad enough, but Parliament has not done so.
“For an unelected and unaccountable body like the Sentencing Council to propose to impose a fundamental change to the principle that we are all equal before the law in an unacceptable overreach which must be resisted.”
The Tory MP and GB News presenter added: “The Sentencing Council has long been the body of choice for those who believe in soft sentencing, and it is time there was much more democratic control over the sentencing guidelines.
Centre for Crime and Justice Studies think tank
“They have no right or mandate to give sections of society a get-out-of-jail card based on these arbitrary characteristics and backgrounds. This proposal must be stopped in its tracks.”
But Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, told GB News that it was “perfectly normal” for judges to take into account the backgrounds of defendants during sentencing.
“This is a consultation, so it’s good that the Blue Collar Conservative group of MPs are sharing their views.
“It’s perfectly normal for sentencers to take into account the personal circumstances of defendants. A well-heeled yob stealing from a shop for a laugh might deserve one kind of sentence.
“A single mother stealing to feed her young children might deserve a different kind of sentence.”
He added: “The current consultation is exploring what the right balance might be and it’s important the Sentencing Council hear a range of views.”
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