A radical plan to reduce reoffending, an improved sentencing framework and reform of the legal aid system were outlined by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke today
Intensive new prison wings designed to get offenders off drink and drugs are to be tested in five jails over the next year as part of a wider Government drive to tackle addiction and crack down on drug abuse inside prison.
Further plans to tackle reoffending include:
- making prisoners work harder, longer and on meaningful tasks;
- ensuring prisoners earn money for victims, and not just for themselves;
- cracking down hard on drug abuse inside prisons;
- demanding more from offenders in tackling the root cause of their criminality;
- ensuring we only put taxpayers’ money into the programmes that work.
The drug recovery wings will be launched at the following prisons - Bristol, Holme House, Brixton, High Down and Manchester.
The scheme was launched on the day the Government confirmed plans, put out to consultation last year, to break the cycle of re-offending and so cut the number of people who are victims of crime, as well as reform a sprawling and overly expensive system of legal aid which has contributed to fears of a growing compensation culture.
In response to the ‘Breaking the Cycle’ consultation, we announce today:
- a new offence of aggravated knife possession, with a mandatory prison sentence of at least six months;
- no reform of murder sentencing under Schedule 21;
- no further discount for pleading guilty early.
We are also conducting an urgent Government review of Imprisonment for Public Protection, with a view to replacing the system with a much tougher determinate regime which would mean:
- more serious offenders receiving life sentences – with mandatory life sentences for the most serious repeat offenders
- offenders who commit serious sexual and violent offences spending two thirds of their sentence in prison rather than the half they spend under the current system
The review will also consider the implications of these proposals for mental health services, particularly those for offenders with severe forms of personality disorder.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said:
'The priority behind our reforms is public protection and cutting crime. We want to attack the shamefully high rate of reoffending and that means cracking down hard on drug abuse inside prison. That’s why we are today launching ambitious new drug recovery wings which will get prisoners clean and stop them committing more crime.
'As well as hard work inside prisons, we will introduce for the first time a focus on the most effective means of reducing reoffending, and have made clear that we will pay providers for services that successfully protect the public from repeat criminals.
'It is also vital we have sentences that ensure prisoners face tough punishment, as well demanding programmes of reform. That is why we are introducing a proposal which will mean more of the most serious offenders receiving life sentences, and serious sexual and violent offenders spending longer behind bars.'
The Government also confirmed how it will overhaul the £2 billion plus system of legal aid, one of the most expensive systems in the world. This supports our wider plans to deliver a more efficient justice system, and help to curb spiralling legal costs and unnecessary court action which have combined to create a damaging fear of compensation culture.
In England and Wales we spend an average of £39 per person on legal aid, compared to £5 in France, Spain and Germany and £8 in New Zealand. By ending the overly costly system we will save the taxpayer £350 million a year by 2015.
The plans unveiled include:
- retaining legal aid for cases where people’s life or liberty is at stake, where they are at risk of serious physical harm, or immediate loss of their home, or where their children may be taken into care;
- legal aid being made available for victims of domestic violence and child abuse;
- abolishing legal aid for squatters resisting eviction and most immigration cases;
- means testing all applicants including those on benefits;
- retaining legal aid for Special Educational Needs cases.
Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said:
'The justice system is in need of urgent reform, burdened as it is by slow, inefficient and expensive processes and procedures, as well as the sheer numbers of people bringing their problems before the courts.
'These reforms will ensure that we have a legal aid system which is targeted at those who need it most, in the most serious cases, as well as providing value for money to the taxpayer.
'Together with our proposed reforms to no win no fee deals and the ways civil disputes are settled, these proposals mark a retreat from a dangerous slide towards a litigious compensation culture, and to encourage greater use of the range of opportunities available for people to solve their disputes. Mediation for example can be cheaper, quicker, simpler and result in better outcomes for many people.'
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