THE SHARP increase in criminal assault over the past decade is largely due to liberal sentencing policies ("A blind eye to violence", 23 July). In that period sentencers have threatened punitive sentences for those committing crimes of violence; the threat has been a hollow one.

Research by the Home Office, the Magistrates' Association and the Justices' Clerks' Society of 1989 sentencing patterns reveal a mere 5 per cent being given a custodial sentence for "violence against the person".

Peter Coad

Stoke Bishop, Bristol