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Burley and Menston MP claims court is 'soft' on the guilty
Criminals found guilty of serious crimes are less likely to be sent to prison in Bradford than most areas of the country, an MP claims.
An investigation by Shipley MP Philip Davies – whose constituency also covers Burley-in-Wharfedale and Menston – has revealed apparent disparities in sentencing in the country’s 76 crown courts. He also found differences in the types of crime for which offenders were sent to prison.
Dorchester, Swindon and Salisbury courts sent all people found guilty of robbery to prison, while in Bradford 77.62 per cent of criminals were jailed in 2010, according to the latest available figures.
In Aylesbury, 94.12 per cent of sexual offenders were jailed, compared to 67.5 per cent in Bradford.
Police representatives said offenders who walked away eroded public confidence and meant criminals won.
Mr Davies said: “I am bitterly disappointed, as I am sure most of my constituents will be, that the Crown Court in Bradford seems to be one of the softest in the country in dealing with serious criminals.”
Senior judges at Bradford were keen to discuss sentencing policy, but were not allowed to by the Judicial Office in London. But figures from the Attorney General’s Office showed that in 2011 only three cases were referred from Bradford under the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme, of which two resulted in increased sentences.
A Bradford defence barrister, who has worked at the crown court for more than two decades, condemned the interpretation of the figures. The barrister, who did not want to be identified, said: “In my experience, there are no judges who sit in Bradford who might be described as soft touches.
“Without exception, they apply the legal guidelines that are given to them by the Sentencing Guidelines Council – a body set up by the Government – and exercise judgement in a fair way that takes into consideration both the victim and the defendant.”
Andrew Tempest-Mitchell, West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman, said officers were “disappointed” when offenders appear to walk away without any consequence for their behaviour.
A spokesman for the Sentencing Council said: “Judges sentence based on the offence an offender is charged with and the detailed facts of each individual case.
“The judge will consider many elements, such as the seriousness of the offence, the harm to the victim, the age of the offender, any previous convictions the offender has and the maximum sentence they are allowed to give by law, which all influence the sentence the judge decides is most appropriate in each case. The kind of offending taking place can vary from area to area – with burglary, for example, there may be more commercial burglaries in one area, and this offence carries lower sentences generally than burglaries of people’s homes.”