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banner Monday, 25 September, 2000, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Straw outlines crime measures

Jack Straw: Focusing on the victims
Home Secretary Jack Straw has outlined a variety of schemes aimed at tackling crime.

On the opening day of Labour's conference in Brighton, Mr Straw promised to increase crime detection and place victims of crime at the centre of the criminal justice system.

He told conference about measures such as more DNA testing, the surveillance of young offenders and increased police numbers.

Mr Straw's shadow, Ann Widdecombe, however, dismissed the announcements, saying the home secretary was "all mouth and no delivery".

DNA testing extended

Mr Staw told conference that "at least 100,000 more crimes can be solved" by 2004.

DNA matching from evidence gathered at crime scenes had helped catch murderers and rapists, he said, "Now we want DNA extended to persistent offenders as well, the burglars and car thieves."

Another key element of the drive to tackle crime was the launch of a surveillance scheme for persistent offenders.

"A new national programme will make sure that 2,500 hardcore young criminals are supervised not once or twice a fortnight, but every day; seven days a week; 24 hours a day if necessary."

Turning to the plight of the victims of crime, Mr Straw promised "first class protection for the victims of crime".

Mr Straw said that from April 2001 the victims of crime would be able to make a statement to the court detailing the effect crime had had on their lives.

He said: "For too long victims have been left in the cold.

New ombudsman

"I want to do more for victims, turning them from passive spectators to more active participants in our justice system."

Complaints from victims would also be addressed by a new ombudsman, he said.

For too long victims have been left in the cold

Jack Straw
Turning to sex attacks against children, Mr Straw said a new order would be introduced to stop offenders living near their victims on release.

On the fraught issue of police numbers - which are likely to have fallen between the time Labour came to power and the time of the next election - Mr Straw looked to the future saying that chief constables now had the funds to take on 9,000 more officers by 2003.

He also promised 30m to be used to boost policing in rural areas.

Widdecombe scathing

Jack Straw has been tough on the crimefighters

Ann Widdecombe
But Miss Widdecombe said: "He glories in the fact that more people are in prison, and conveniently overlooks the early release of criminals from jail on his special early relase scheme."

Reacting to Labour's proposed 59m of new money for police scene of crime work, she said: "What is the use of announcing fresh resources for the police but keeping them chronically undermanned?"

She also drew attention to the comments of the chairman of the Police Federation, who has talked of the "crisis in policing", and the Chief Constable of Kent, who said on Sunday the police were "losing the battle on crime".

Miss Widdecombe said she was not surprised Mr Straw's speech in Brighton met with such a "muted reception".

Miss Widdecombe's reaction was: "Instead of being tough on crime, Jack Straw has been tough on the crimefighters."

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