On December 20, a 33-year-old mother of four children, aged nine, seven, five and four, was sent to prison for seven months. Her offence was DSS fraud and credit card deception to obtain food. In the North-east a 31-year-old woman with four children was given six weeks' imprisonment over the Christmas period for DSS fraud. Another mother was remanded in custody over the holiday and released on bail immediately afterwards. Serious as such offences are, prison is primarily for those who represent a danger to the public, and the Home Secretary seemed out of touch when he remarked that no trial judge would send a woman such as Mrs Carter to jail just before Christmas.
Seven out of 10 women remanded in custody do not, in the end, get custodial sentences. Community penalties such as probation and community service are themselves demanding while keeping families together. There is, indeed, a case for change in the sentencing 'mood' as Mr Ede puts it.
Assistant General Secretary
Association of Chief Officers of Probation