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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 January, 2004, 11:42 GMT
Petty criminals 'overrun jails'
Community programmes may replace short custodial sentences
Jails are being "overrun" by people convicted for motoring crimes and "quite petty" offences, the UK prisons chief has said.

Martin Narey, head of the newly created National Offender Management Service, said courts needed to realise the value of community penalties.

In the last decade, the number of people jailed for motoring offences has quadrupled, he told the BBC.

"Lots of people are in prison now who would not have been 10 years ago."

Changing terms

Mr Narey is taking control of the new organisation, formed by merging the old prison and probation services.

Speaking on BBC One's Breakfast with Frost, he stressed that Home Secretary David Blunkett had pushed for dangerous and violent offenders to serve longer jail terms.

But he said: "The Prison Service is being overrun with very many short-term prisoners - lots of people who are in prison now who would not have been in prison ten years ago.

"Custody rates for some quite petty offending have quadrupled, motoring offences for example.

"Custody rates at the magistrates' courts for men and women convicted of motoring (offences) are four times higher now than they were 10 years ago. They don't need to be in jail in such numbers.

"The new service which I'll head will work very closely with the judiciary to try to inform them about the greater effectiveness of community penalties for that sort of offender."

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