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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 12:09 GMT
Widdecombe woos police
Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe has won an enthusiastic reception from the Police Federation conference - in marked contrast to the boos received by Labour's Jack Straw on Wednesday.
Miss Widdecombe was applauded at the end of a speech in which she promised tougher sentences, a crackdown on juvenile crime and more police on the beat.
And in a swipe at political correctness, which she blamed for damaging officers' morale, she promised "more PCs, less PC" if the Conservatives won the election.
Home Secretary Jack Straw was heckled by many of the 1,000 delegates in Blackpool when he addressed the conference on Wednesday.
Delivering a series of classic Tory law-and-order pledges, Miss Widdecombe said: "Criminals choose to commit crime - they have no excuse for making that choice."
She said her party would extend powers for the Crown Prosecution Service to appeal against lenient sentences and change the 'double jeopardy' rule under which no-one can be tried twice for the same offence - policies already advocated by Labour.
Miss Widdecombe praised community policing she had seen on a visit to Washington DC, which had freed officers from paperwork to spend more time on the beat, in a so-called "cops in shops" initiative.
Turning her fire on critics of the police, she said: "I hear you have now been accused of institutional sexism as well as institutional racism. I don't know what you will be accused of institutionally next week.
"The requirements of political correctness can sometimes be very disheartening to people who are simply trying to do their best."
Calling for a crackdown on juvenile crime, Miss Widdecombe drew applause from the audience when she described the problems officers face when dealing with young trouble-makers.
"When the police go and arrest them, they find these same youngsters back on the streets on the same day or the next laughing at the courts, laughing at the police and laughing at the system."
16 May 01 | Vote2001
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