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Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 18:00 GMT
Make offenders get help - Bingham

Lord Bingham Lord Bingham: Opportunities are being wasted

Britain's most senior judge has demanded new powers enabling courts to place violent criminals and sex offenders on treatment programmes while in jail.

Those who refuse the treatment should face a longer prison term, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, told an international probation conference in London.

Time and again, we encounter persistent offenders whose long record of offending can be traced to a single unaddressed failing
Lord Bingham
His comments have been praised by leading probation officers, who said Lord Bingham's suggestions marked a shift from the notion of "warehousing" prisoners to one of rehabilitation.

The Association of Chief Officers of Probation said about 3,000 officers are currently engaged in rehabilitation schemes which include programmes for sex offenders, drink-related offences, domestic violence and anger management.

It said persistent offenders on short sentences had the least chance of getting onto the programmes.

Lord Bingham said: "Time and again, we encounter persistent offenders whose long record of offending can be traced to a single unaddressed failing, most often addiction to alcohol or drugs or inability to control the temper, or various forms of sex offending."

He also warned that a valuable opportunity would be lost if such offenders were released from prison without addressing their problems.

Criminal behaviour

"I think it would be beneficial if sentencers were able to impose a sentence of custody coupled with a requirement to undergo remedial treatment during the custodial term," he added.

The Association of Chief Officers of Probation welcomed Lord Bingham's call.

A spokesman said: "(The proposal) has got a big thumbs-up from us."

And Unlock, the National Association of Ex-Offenders, also backed Lord Bingham's calls.

Chief executive Mark Leech said offenders could not be compelled to attend behaviour courses offered in prison at the moment. However, it would be more difficult to ensure the courses were successful if they were not done on a voluntary basis.

He said: "This week we saw the first real rise in crime for six years.

"There is an obvious and pressing need therefore to do much more to prevent ex-offenders from reoffending, and this is one way of helping to achieve that, though it does have problems."

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See also:
11 Oct 99 |  UK
Lie detectors tested by probation service
21 Jan 00 |  UK
Young offenders try army life
11 Jun 98 |  UK
Bingham warns of legal aid cuts

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