[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 23 April, 2004, 00:17 GMT 01:17 UK
Woolf warning over justice system
Lord Woolf
Lord Woolf said he was concerned for the victims of crime
The criminal justice system has reached a "critical moment", the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has said.

Lord Woolf told an audience at University College London the British people have little confidence that the system can ensure justice is done.

The efforts of the prison service are thwarted by the "chronic problem" of overcrowding, he said.

But, he added, the new Sentencing Guidelines Council will help make penal policy "less of a political issue".

We are not being sufficiently tough on the causes of crime
Lord Woolf

The council, an independent body, will be headed by Lord Woolf.

He aims to make the punishment more appropriate to the crime, commenting that courts had been under continuous pressure to increase sentencing.

Lord Woolf also welcomed measures to streamline the criminal justice system.

The criminal justice system was at "critical moment", he said, with low conviction rates and high levels of reoffending.

Lack of morale

This was not helped by overcrowding in prisons and a severe lack of morale and resources in the probation service, he added.

He said: "My concern in painting this sombre picture is not so much with the offenders who often find their regimes undermined by overcrowding, but with those who will be the victims of crime because of our inability to tackle offending behaviour.

"We are not being sufficiently tough on the causes of crime."

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw suggested Lord Woolf's comment could be interpreted as a swipe at a phrase which has come to define Tony Blair's approach to law and order.

Our correspondent said the media had also been criticised by Lord Woolf for launching vituperative attacks on judges without finding out the facts.




SEE ALSO:
Compromise offer over asylum row
15 Mar 04  |  Politics
Showdown over supreme court
08 Mar 04  |  Politics
Pressure grows on legal reforms
04 Mar 04  |  Politics
Woolf savages constitutional plan
03 Mar 04  |  Politics


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific