"We have heard more about tough sentences and increased numbers of prisoners, but the reality is that what is important is never the maximum sentence but the sentencing guidelines given to magistrates and judges.
In 2005, for example, 5,957 people were convicted of having a knife in a public place, but only one of them was given the maximum sentence possible. In that same year, 5,689 were convicted of possessing a knife or sharp, bladed instrument unlawfully, but only two were given the maximum sentence. When it comes to drugs, about 7,000 people were convicted of possession with intent to supply cocaine, crack, heroin, ecstasy, LSD, methadone and other class A drugs. Of those 7,000 people convicted of intent to supply, only one—just one—received the maximum sentence. Many of them did not even receive custodial sentences. I recently attended a police raid on a known heroin dealer. A quantity of heroin was found, but the dealer was let off with a caution. For all the Government’s rhetoric, the reality has not been tough on crime or tough on the causes of crime."
More from Hansard here.