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Better policing, more effective prisons - Huhne sets out route to cutting crime

September 16, 2008 10:30 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne, has attacked Labour and the Conservatives for competing to sound tough on crime, rather than actually reducing crime through better policing.

Chris began:

"Conference, there is a Tory and Labour conspiracy on crime. Both are guilty of putting forward measures to tackle crime that are ineffective or even counter-productive.

"These parties are not tough on crime. They are soft on hard thinking and tough choices. Just as our party has changed the public debate on climate change, we need to change the debate on crime and punishment."

He said that the Liberal Democrats offer common sense not sensationalism, and that was why the party had proposed on Sunday a National Crime Reduction Agency to report on the evidence of what works in justice and policing as thoroughly as we assess medicines in the health service.

Chris turned to the issue of knife crime:

"What works is visible policing to reassure people they do not need to carry a knife. Intelligence led stop and search of hot spots to catch knife carriers. Working with the local community to gather leads and encourage witnesses. Telling it how it is in schools and colleges. Taking back control of the streets."

On prisons, Chris emphasised that the point of prison ought to be to stop people reoffending:

"But if you put a young man into prison for the first time, there is a 92 per cent chance he will offend again. Our prisons are colleges of crime."

He continued: "Let's be clear. We need prison for serious offenders and for serial offences. But we need reformed prisons that educate, occupy and prepare prisoners for life outside."

Chris highlighted that very few people are convicted of a crime in Britain today:

"For every hundred crimes committed in Britain today, just one criminal will end up with a conviction in a court of law. That's a 99 per cent chance of getting away with it. And if you don't catch offenders, no amount of threatening punishments will work.

"So if we want to cut crime, we should stop posturing about penalties because they are tough enough. The answer's simple. Catch criminals to cut crime."

He highlighted that the detection rate for crime has fallen by nearly a fifth since the end of the eighties.

Later in his speech Chris turned to the issue of civil liberties, asking:

"[I]f the Liberal Democrats did not exist, who would stand up for civil liberties? Not the so-called liberal Conservatives, who just this summer have called for tougher bail conditions, automatic sentences for knife-carrying, more prisons, and the removal of checks on police surveillance. I just hope the Conservatives can still be relied upon to vote against more detention without trial or ID cards. Goodbye David Davis, it was nice knowing you."

Click here to read Chris Huhne's speech in full