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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 00:43 GMT 01:43 UK
Persistent offenders targeted
Two inmates in a prison cell
More jails will be needed under Labour's proposals
Persistent offenders will spend longer in jail if Labour is returned to power at the general election.

Home Secretary Jack Straw will make the pledge on Tuesday when he outlines the biggest review of sentencing for a decade to the House of Commons.

With the general election imminent, the measures will form the centre-piece of Labour's strategy on law and order during the campaign.


Stay straight or go back to prison

Jack Straw
The Conservatives are likely to portray Labour's term in government as littered with initiatives that failed to cut crime.

Mr Straw is expected to tell the Commons that criminals must "stay straight or go back to prison".

Among the measures he is due to announce are:

  • Closer scrutiny of sentences by magistrates and judges.
  • Prisoners released early to be monitored until their sentences are finished.
  • "Custody-plus" - a system under which shorter sentences are supplemented by community service.

The new initiatives are the result of a review ordered last year by Mr Straw amid mounting criticism that the 1991 Criminal Justice Act had failed to take account of criminals' previous records.

Home Secretary Jack Straw
Jack Straw: Will make a statement to the House
Details of the review, carried out by a retired civil servant, will be revealed by the home secretary.

The findings are expected to include a proposal that courts should be tougher on the 100,000 persistent offenders who are estimated to be responsible for half of the five million crimes recorded annually in England and Wales.

Another key proposal is that the 46,000 offenders sentenced each year to less than 12 months in prison should be monitored by the Probation Service until the end of the sentence imposed by the court.

Any breach of the conditions of their release would lead to them being returned to prison.

During the election campaign, the Conservatives will promise to bring in more "visible policing" and new measures to combat youth crime and anti-social behaviour.

The Liberal Democrats will say that victims of crime should have a greater role in setting criminal sentences.

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See also:

26 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Straw's unfinished business
03 May 01 | UK Politics
Crackdown on repeat offenders
07 May 01 | UK Politics
Ministers kick-start poll campaign
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