Send less criminals to jail, says Lord Woolf.

A BRILLIANT idea from Lord Chief Justice Woolf. Send less criminals to jail!

Political Editor

BRITAIN’S top judge yesterday called for a sentencing shake-up that would put FEWER criminals in jail.

Lord Chief Justice Woolf’s views fly in the face of international evidence that reveals crime PLUNGES when hardened offenders are sent to prison.

And last night a top think-tank warned his proposals would lead to an explosion of lawlessness.

The judge said prison should be reserved only for the worst crimes. These included murder, violent assault and white collar offences plus fine defaulters.

Fraudsters not muggers, he suggested, should experience the “clang of the prison door”.

Experts believe the judge’s shake-up call — made as he prepares to retire — would mean paedophiles, sex offenders and burglars escaping jail.

Lord Woolf said in an interview with The Guardian: “While I firmly believe that for serious and violent crimes there is no alternative to a custodial sentence, I also believe passionately on taking steps to turn people away from crime.

“One major challenge is to convince the public that non-custodial sentences do provide a satisfactory punishment to offenders.”

But experience has proved society is protected by being tough on criminals. In America, violence and other serious offences slumped after elected judges began putting serial offenders away every time.

New York cut serious crime by focusing on petty offences under its famous “cracked windows” policy. As beggars and graffiti artists were driven off the streets, murders and assaults also fell.

In Britain, recorded crime crashed 18 per cent in the 1990s when Tories toughened sentencing and built more jails.

Today, England and Wales have the fourth HIGHEST recorded crime rate in 39 European countries. It is 1½ times the EU average.

Legal think-tank Civitas last night said victims were being ignored in the proposals at the expense of criminals.

Spokesman Robert Whelan said: “Lord Woolf wants to confine the use of prison to serious and dangerous offenders.

“He ignores the large number of criminals, mostly young men, who commit volumes of crime such as burglary, vandalism, theft, car crime and persistent anti-social behaviour.

“Their behaviour can have devastating effects on the lives of those around them.

“They need to be dealt with seriously and in many cases they deserve a prison sentence.

“Prison has a deterrent effect. If they know they are likely to go to jail they are more likely to control themselves.”

Tory MP and barrister Oliver Heald said: “There must be no doubt that people who commit paedophile offences, sexual assaults and burglaries should be sent to prison.

“It’s not acceptable if judges decide things are not serious when the public and Parliament think they are serious.”

Mr Heald, Tory spokesman on constitutional affairs, also fears killer drivers could get community sentences rather than jail under Lord Woolf’s proposals.

A spokesman for the judge said: “Lord Woolf has made it clear publicly many times that prison sentences should be imposed or considered in a wide variety of cases.

“This is specifically in cases involving criminals who are a danger to the public or who have committed serious crimes.

“Any suggestion that his comments can be interpreted as suggesting that serious offences will be treated lightly by the courts is quite wrong.”

* DAVID Blunkett promised a year ago while Home Secretary that 1,300 more prison spaces would be created. The Home Office admits that has not been achieved but promises 1,000 by next June.
The baron is barking

HIS name is Woolf — but his legal howlers show he is really barking.

Baron Harry Kenneth Woolf, Lord Chief Justice has been a judge for 26 long years.

At the age of 72, he at last realises he is past his best-by date and has promised to hang up his wig in October.

Five months after he was made England and Wales’ top judge in 2000, Lord Woolf rejected former Home Secretary Michael Howard’s 15-year tariff on the killers of toddler Jamie Bulger, meaning Robert Thompson and Jon Venables were freed after eight years.

In 2001, he started his call for courts to impose shorter sentences. But at the same time he called short terms “ineffective”.

In 2002, he said many first-time burglars should get community service. In 2004, he issued a booklet banning judges from describing anyone as “disabled”, “black” or “asylum seeker”.

He insisted postmen be called postal-workers and said “he” or “she” must be replaced by “they”.
He sounds like one of those politically correct nutjobs,for certain We have an overabundance of them in our country too.

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