not do away with the need for sentencing discretion, but it creates a much more coherent and principled framework for its exercise.
Whether the Act will be successful in achieving its intended goals is a matter for serious debate and it has divided some of the most expert writers on the sentencing system.70 It is a matter for concern that the government responded so precipitately to criticism of some of the new provisions by amending them, within twelve months, in the Criminal Justice Act 1993. In view of the exhaustive consultation which preceded the 1991 Act, it was surely premature to start tinkering with such a carefully constructed piece of legislation. It remains to be seen how committed sentencers will be to the central philosophy of the 1991 Act.71
Although it might be thought at first sight that the impact of Europeanization on the sentencing system of England and Wales has been relatively slight, it would be unwise to dismiss its importance in relation to sentencing policy and practice. The repeated appearance of England and Wales at the top of the European 'league table' for the use of imprisonment, and the unfavourable comparison with European neighbours in terms of prison conditions, have served to add urgency to the need to reform our sentencing system. Even an insular body like the British judiciary can hardly have been unaware of these facts. The British government has been painfully aware of them and, perhaps belatedly, has decided to tackle these problems. Whether the Criminal Justice Act 1991 (as amended by the 1993 Act) will prove the correct or most effective means of doing so remains open to debate.
The international movement in favour of a justice or proportionality approach to sentencing has also been noted. There is a growing intolerance of prolonged incarceration to achieve other penal objectives, such as deterrence or treatment. England and Wales share with other European countries a growing willingness to promote and use community-based alternatives to imprisonment. Thus the impact of Europeanization on national sentencing policy may not be easy to measure in exact terms, but it should not be underestimated. It should not be forgotten, however, that____________________