Clarke tackles record jail numbers
Murderers could serve less time in prison under Government plans that would see shorter sentences, fewer criminals in jail and more offenders handed fines or community sentences.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke outlined plans which would give judges more discretion over how long killers should spend behind bars.
A "simpler, more sensible" approach that "leaves the judge to do justice in the individual case" will be put in place.
Other plans include letting foreign nationals escape jail as long as they leave the UK forever, wiping the slate clean for young offenders when they reach 18 so they are not hindered by a criminal record, and halving sentences for those who plead guilty early.
The Government's plans immediately came under fire from Tory backbenchers worried criminals would avoid being sent to prison.
Senior Tory Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, said he was concerned by Mr Clarke's comments about prison not continuing to be "an expensive way of giving communities a break", saying: "I'm sorry. Communities deserve a break. They deserve a break from being burgled."
But Mr Clarke insisted that prisons will remain "first and foremost as a place of punishment where people lose their liberty as reparation for what they have done".
"No-one's intending to reduce the sentence for the serious criminal murderer," Mr Clarke said as he outlined plans to scrap legislation that attempts to analyse "each and every sort of murder largely by the method used by the murderer".
"You don't need to tell judges that murder is a serious offence and judges are perfectly capable of setting minimum terms," he said.
He added the current rules were "a complete nonsense" and said: "At the moment, if you murder me you'll be punished more if you use a knife than if you strangle me painfully.