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Cameron backs penal system reforms

Britain's criminal justice system is not working and is in need of urgent reform, David Cameron has admitted.

The Prime Minister was speaking as it was disclosed that Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke is "sympathetic" to proposals for a shake-up of murder laws that could see some murderers serve less time in prison.

Justice Minister Lord McNally told peers at House of Lords question time on Monday that the Government was "mindful" of the recommendations of a 2006 Law Commission report which suggested a system of first and second degree murder.

"This is one of the issues that the Government will be looking at in its review of sentencing policy in general," Lord McNally said.

Mr Cameron told the Daily Mail that 10% of sentences could be affected by the review ordered by Mr Clarke.

He said sentences of one or two months were "pretty meaningless" and the black hole in public finances meant Britain could no longer afford to jail offenders for short periods only to see them reoffend.

"The truth is you have to have some short sentences because they are absolutely necessary, but it (is) also true that sending someone to prison for a period of one month or two months is pretty meaningless in terms of actually being able to reform them."

Instead the Prime Minister will consider proposals for local referendums to choose community punishments. "All ideas of making people feel they have more power and control over government and their lives and the criminal justice system, those are all things we can look at," Mr Cameron said.

He continued: "We have to face the fact that we have a criminal justice system that isn't working at the moment. We're banging people up at vast expense, half of them are on drugs, over 10% aren't meant to be here at all because they're foreigners, and the reoffending rate is dreadful.

"We also have to face the fact that the Government has been left an appalling legacy of no money. So we have to be reformers. Now that doesn't mean being soft, it means making sure that punishment and rehabilitation go together."


From Belfast Telegraph