Ipswich MP calls for tougher prison sentences as government withdraws early release plans

Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt has called for tougher sentences after the government withdrew plan

Ipswich Conservative MP Tom Hunt has called for tougher sentences after the government withdrew plans for the early release of certain prisoners Picture: OLIVER SULLIVAN - Credit: Archant

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has called on the government to impose tougher prison sentences after it withdrew plans to release certain prisoners around six months early.

The government plan, if successful, would have seen offenders in England and Wales who met certain criteria – such as those serving sentences of less than four years – eligible for release 180 days early under the Home Detention Curfew scheme.

Currently, prisoners who meet the criteria are eligible for release 135 days early. Previous estimates showed around 500 prisoners would have been eligible for early release as part of the scheme.

A vote would have been held on the proposal today – although a rebellion of backbench MPs, including Mr Hunt, raised opposition to the move on the basis of pushing for tougher sentences.

It has, however, been reported the plan’s withdrawal could be due to the coronavirus crisis reducing the number of court cases.

Mr Hunt said the recent decision to reduce the sentence of Kyreis Davies – a teenager jailed for the murder of Tavis Spencer-Aitkens – helped influence his decision and showed judges were “out of touch” with public opinion on crime and punishment.

Mr Hunt said: “I promised when I was standing for election that I would push in parliament for tougher sentencing if elected.

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“My view is that it’s very important that there is greater public confidence in the justice system and that will only happen if justice is done and seen to be done.

“Voting for this legislation would have gone against this in my view and I’m glad that is been pulled and I don’t have to vote against it.”

Mr Hunt added there have been “positive” steps in introducing tougher sentences on criminals, despite criticism by the Prison Reform Trust.

He added: “Unfortunately the situation is made more difficult when so many judges appear to be out of touch with public opinion as we’ve seen recently with the Kyreis Davies case.

“I very much hope this is the end of this particular piece of legislation.”

A total of 397 inmates had tested positive for Covid-19 in 74 prisons as of 5pm on Sunday. Some 479 prison staff have also contracted the virus in 69 jails as well as 15 prisoner escort and custody services workers.