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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Tougher curbs on freed criminals
Charles Clarke
Mr Clarke said the measures were an "important step forwards"
Dangerous criminals released on probation will face tougher supervision to prevent them re-offending, under new measures announced by the government.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke has proposed restrictive orders similar to those applied to sex offenders.

But judges and probation staff said the supervision system was overloaded.

The plans come as a paedophile who admitted raping a nine-year-old girl despite being under community supervision was jailed indefinitely.

Kevin Hazelwood, 40, from Brighton, Sussex, was told he must serve a minimum of five years and seven months.

There has also been concern over recent cases in which criminals on probation carried out murders such as the killings of Reading teenager Mary-Ann Leneghan and banker John Monckton in London.

Mr Clarke told the Commons the proposals would ensure violent offenders would remain under supervision after serving their sentences.

And separate measures would require all prisoners to be seen by a probation officer upon release until their sentences formally came to an end.

He said no risk "can ever be eliminated" but said the plans were "an important step forwards in protecting the public".

New conditions

Offenders sent to prison for 12 months or more are released at the halfway point on licence, and currently are subject to probationary supervision until they are three quarters of the way through their original sentence.

Beyond that point they are not supervised but can be returned to custody for the rest of their sentence if they commit another offence.

CURRENT PROBATION SERVICES
The National Probation Service supervises more than 200,000 offenders each day
About 70% have been given community sentences and 30% have been in prison but are now out on licence
Offenders are assessed and given supervision programmes
Offenders have regular contact with a probation officer - initially weekly visits
Some are placed in special hostels with restrictions
Hostel rules include curfews, CCTV, mail monitoring, observation, drug testing, bans on contacting named people and police visits - breaches can lead to recall to prison
Probation officers find and regularly monitor unpaid community work
High risk sexual and violent offenders are assessed by specialist panels and extra court orders can further restrict behaviour
Sources: National Probation Service and Home Office

Judges would be given more powers to impose conditions on high-risk offenders once they are in the community.

Dangerous offenders could be banned from sports grounds or have limit imposed on how much alcohol they could drink.

Breaching a new violent offender order could carry a maximum of five years in jail.

In extreme cases, the order could last for the rest of the offender's life.

Mr Clarke said good behaviour in prison would no longer be seen as an important factor in determining release dates.

"I am issuing guidance to both prisons and probation staff to highlight the need to avoid over-emphasis on good behaviour in prison and the progress in addressing what are called dynamic risk factors when assessing risk prior to release," he said.

The home secretary intimated more funding will be made available from existing budgets to the Parole Board to reintroduce face-to-face interviews with prisoners before release.

In his statement, the home secretary said probation officers will be asked to focus on the most dangerous criminals.

He said he believed the probation service was willing to introduce such reform in the wake of the Monckton case.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said "much" of what is planned is welcome but added the proposals "failed to address the real problems in the probation service".

Violent criminals would not be deterred by "some kind of super-Asbo", he said.

The Liberal Democrat's spokesman on Home Affairs, Nick Clegg, broadly welcomed the proposal but questioned whether the government would provide the necessary funding.

Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland told BBC News 24 probation officer funding had been increased in recent years.

The new measures were needed to help the service become "better at identifying who it is who needs to be retained in prison and when and how and under what conditions we can safely release people."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
One of the cases which led to the new plans



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