Page last updated at 08:40 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 09:40 UK

Tories 'to end criminal privacy'

Dominic Grieve
Dominic Grieve says the Tories will 'rebalance' the law

The Tories say they will end what they call the "automatic privacy" of criminals, by giving police powers to reveal their identities to the public.

The party says public safety is coming second to the rights of some criminals, including dangerous fugitives.

It blames the Human Rights Act, which it has pledged to abolish if elected.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw called the Tory plan a "deeply confused populist announcement", which ignored the fact that police already had such powers.

Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve, who will outline the plans at the Conservative Party conference later, said the rights of criminals were being "put before" those of communities.

Policy 'flawed'

He added: "A Conservative government will free the police, probation and prison services to name offenders where necessary in order to protect the public and prevent crime."

The party blames a combination of flawed government policy and legal uncertainty, arising from the Human Rights Act. It says the act has left prison officers, probation staff, police and local authorities "in confusion" about conflicting duties owed to the public and criminals.

If this is cynical populism, so you name and shame people already safely behind bars, that would be a matter of grave concern
Shami Chakrabarti

And it says there have been instances when people have not been told about dangerous offenders in their area.

One such example, they say, occurred in 2007 when Derbyshire police refused to release pictures of two escaped killers because it was said to have taken into account "human rights and data protection acts".

The force later released the photographs, but denied it had acted out of human rights concerns.

The party also claims the Human Rights Act has prevented the Serious Organised Crime Agency from naming major-league criminals so the public can report them for suspicious activities.

Police guidance

For the government, Mr Straw dismissed the claims, saying: "The outcomes of court cases are already on the public record. Courts are open so that justice can be seen to be done.

"Police are able to use this information to inform the public, and regularly make announcements about wanted criminals.

"This is a deeply confused populist announcement which, like so many Conservative policies this week, falls apart the moment it is subjected to scrutiny."

If elected, the Conservatives say they will issue guidance to the police to make public protection an "overriding priority".

I don't want to give a lot of 13 or 14-year-olds a criminal record
Chris Grayling
Shadow home secretary

And they have pledged to repeal the Human Rights Act, replacing it with a British Bill of Rights, which they say will "enable the UK to rebalance laws in favour of public protection."

But Mr Grieve told Sky News: "Of course, there may be cases where privacy is important, such as if you are dealing with a child who may have committed an offence."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, who appeared at a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference on Tuesday, told the BBC: "If this is about being clear with the police that they ought to feel able to publish the images of dangerous criminals on the run so they can be spotted and brought to justice, that's a very good idea.

"If, on the other hand, this is cynical populism, so you name and shame people already safely behind bars and encourage vigilantism, that would be a matter of grave concern."

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling will also give a speech later in Manchester calling for youngsters committing anti-social behaviour to be "grounded" by police.

Mr Grayling told GMTV he wanted "simple, instant punishments", adding: "I don't want to give a lot of 13 or 14-year-olds a criminal record which affects their prospects in later life."

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