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Lord Chief Justice: why accusations that judges have gone soft are unfounded

The head of the judiciary explains how the sentencing of criminals really works

By Ian Burnett  

Photo: SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

An alien visiting the Earth and reading our newspapers and online media would wonder why convicted criminals were getting more lenient sentences than in the past. There is a difficulty with this narrative. It is a myth.   

The reality is the opposite. In December 2009, the average length of all custodial sentences was 13.7 months. In December 2019, it was 18.9 months. For cases that could be dealt with only in the Crown Court, the average was 16.5 months in 2009 but 21.4 months by 2019. There have been further increases since. A generation ago, in 1993,…

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