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Home Secretary Jack Straw
delivering his speech to The Police Federation
 real 56k

The Police Federation's Fred Broughton
"It was very clear today how police officers feel"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jon Silverman
"Jack Straw's fifth speech was by far his most uncomfortable"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Straw jeered by police conference
Mr Straw speaks to the conference
Mr Straw was heckled and slow handclapped
Home Secretary Jack Straw was heckled as he addressed more than 1,000 police officers at their annual conference in Blackpool.

Delegates shouted and jeered as Mr Straw outlined the government's policies on law and order.

There were roars of laughter when he said that being a police officer was a popular job.

And when he said the number of officers leaving the force was "stable and low", the delegates began clapping slowly.

Harsher punishment

However, delegates applauded when the home secretary outlined proposed reforms of the criminal justice system.

Mr Straw told the conference that relevant previous convictions of defendants should be made known to a jury.

"And since the prosecution rightly have to disclose all expert evidence and names of all witnesses to the defence, what is wrong with the defence disclosing all their witnesses and expert evidence to the prosecutors?

"It is done in Scotland and we are going to do it here."

Mr Straw outlined proposals to punish more harshly persistent offenders and to tighten up on granting bail to persistent young criminals.

And he said assets seized from criminals should go straight back into law enforcement.

'Rumbustious'

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said Mr Straw had been "rumbled" by the Police Federation whose members were "sick and tired of being let down by Labour".

"Jack Straw has failed to keep the promises on police numbers, to crack down on assaults against officers, to address declining morale in the service and to deliver tougher sentences for criminals," she said.

"All these promises have been made personally by Jack Straw to the Police Federation."

Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan division of the federation, said Mr Straw looked "clearly shaken".

But at a news conference after the address, Mr Straw dismissed the heckling, saying: "I am used to rumbustious meetings".

Fred Broughton, chairman of the Police Federation, which held the conference, said the delegates' behaviour had been borne of "frustration".

"There was a reaction on police numbers and these police officers here this week have come from police stations where they are under intense pressure," he said.

Earlier, Mr Broughton had told the conference that morale in the service was extremely low.

He again urged politicians to increase police numbers and improve conditions for officers.

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