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The BBC's Lucy Atherton
"Weekend prison sentences are under consideration"
 real 28k

Home Secretary Jack Straw
"If they continue to offend again and again, they will face custody"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
'Day prison' plan for delinquents
Jack Straw
Jack Straw wants a debate about repeat offenders
Home Secretary Jack Straw is proposing locking up repeat offenders in "day prisons" between nine and five or just at weekends, in a major overhaul of custodial sentences.

Mr Straw will suggest that criminals who habitually commit relatively low-level offences should face custodial sentences.

The moves are also aimed at toughening up community sentences which Mr Straw says are "inadequately enforced".

Mr Straw will outline his suggestions fully in a speech to probation officers on Tuesday.

Target criminal not the crime

Speaking ahead of his speech, Mr Straw told the BBC that the proposals were aimed at repeat offenders, whereas the current system involved set tariffs for individual crimes.

He said that he planned to stop those low-level criminals who "can survive as criminals in and out of the magistrates court, without ever spending any serious time in prison" despite "very serious" persistent offending.

Turning to weekend prisons, Mr Straw said: "You would allow someone to carry on with their occupation during the week but ensure that they would be in during the weekend as part of both their punishment and their rehabilitation.

Early intervention

"You intervene as early as you can to try and get the offender out of offending without the need for harsh punishment, if their offences are of an order that would justify that.

"But if they don't get the point and they continue to be a serious risk to the public and they offend again and again, then they will face custody."

Tony Martin
Tony Martin: Jailed for murdering burglar

Mr Straw said the moves he was proposing were necessary due to "fundamental flaws in the sentencing regime" which he said took "very little account of previous offending behaviour".

The crimes targetted by the proposals include public order offences, assault and car theft.

The proposals come after Conservative leader William Hague launched a policy offensive on law and order, calling for a radical overhaul of legislation on self-defence.

Mr Hague said there was a need to rebalance the law after the case of farmer Tony Martin, jailed for the murder of a 16-year-old who broke into his home.

It later emerged that the burglars breaking into Martin's remote Norfolk home had more than 100 previous convictions between them.

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See also:

10 Feb 99 | UK
50bn cost of crime
19 Apr 00 | UK
Crime in the countryside
26 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Hague backs right to defend homes
26 Apr 00 | Local elections
Hague branded 'saloon-bar' politician
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