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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 12:44 GMT
Reid rethinks strategy on louts

The Queen's Speech includes a new Criminal Justice Bill which aims to further target anti-social behaviour. What will it contain?

Beer bottles and graffiti in Northampton
John Reid is determined to crack down on loutish behaviour

Tony Blair formally launched his "Respect agenda" in January and the new Criminal Justice Bill will be a continuation of the government's campaign against anti-social behaviour.

The bill is expected to boost police powers to close anti-social premises, such as noisy pubs and clubs, within 48 hours and force youths to move away from public spaces.

It will also introduce a generic community sentence for young offenders.

This idea was abandoned along with the Youth Justice Bill in 2005.

Controversial measures

But the bill also includes some controversial measures which critics say damage the criminal justice system.

Home Secretary John Reid is planning legislation which would prevent the Court of Appeal quashing convictions on "technicalities" when the defendants were "plainly guilty".

For example, if a judge fails to direct jurors on a point of law, a murder conviction can be thrown out even if the evidence is overwhelming.

Lawyers and civil liberties groups have already made their opposition known and will hope to gain support from backbench MPs.

Another controversial measure is the plan to put a cap on the amount of compensation due to people wrongly convicted of crimes.

Mr Reid wants to introduce a 500,000 maximum for miscarriage of justice victims and claims it is unfair that they in some cases get paid more than people who are victims of crime.

Campaigners say it is wrong to equate the two and say it is wrong to impose a cap. They point out that 500,000 is not a lot of money to someone who has spent many years in jail and has been publicly vilified for a crime they did not commit.

Among the other measures set for inclusion in the Bill will be:

  • Making it a criminal offence to view images of rape and sexual torture. Offenders would be liable to be jailed for up to three years, even if the images actually featured actors who had given their consent.

  • Doubling the maximum penalty for carrying a knife to four years' imprisonment.

  • Expanding the use of conditional cautions, which punish offenders on the spot for trivial behaviour without the need for expensive, wasteful court cases.

  • Violent offender orders to impose severe restrictions on dangerous criminals once they are released from prison. Offenders who break these "super-Asbos" could in some cases be sent back to jail for the rest of their life.

  • Procedures toughened for defendants failing to turn up at court without good reason. In some cases they could be tried in absentia.

  • A community payback scheme which would force minor offenders to pay money or do community work to atone for their offences.

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