Published on 29 Jun 2010

Short sentenced: Clarke talks policy

One by one, government ministers are outlining their plan of action – tomorrow, it’s Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s turn to talk about sentencing policy.

Number 10 got into a bit of a fluster after Ken Clarke’s TV interview about too many short sentences being handed out – one Tory MP dismissed it as “drivel.”

So don’t expect too much controversy in the Clarke text … but the direction of travel will be clear.

It’s the end of the “prison works” Tory mantra of Michael Howard. There isn’t enough money around to keep increasing prison populations and it doesn’t get you very far anyway, Mr Clarke believes.

If it did, the prison population rise would be matched by a crime drop.

It hasn’t been, Ken Clarke will say. So we need a sentencing review (which will probably recommend non-custodial sentences for lesser offences) and much more emphasis on rehabilitation.

Much like private sector companies were encouraged to come in and help to get the unemployed back into the labour market so, the government hopes, the private sector will step in and come up with innovative programmes to rehabilitate offenders and be paid by results.

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28 reader comments

  1. tanya spooner says:

    Given what we are told about prisoners’ lack of basic education and drug problems, those are two areas which prisons should address, particularly for young offenders who may stand a chance of real reform. Most people want to see violent criminals behind bars much more than thieves and fraudsters, yet the current sentencing often reverses this idea and gives longer custodial sentences to victimless crimes. It would be wonderful if Ken Clarke was thinking along these lines, but I won’t hold my breath.

  2. Jailhouselawyer says:

    Is it just a ploy to reduce the prison population so there will be less people in prison who will have the vote?

  3. Meg Howarth says:

    As an former prison teacher, delighted to have heard Ken Clarke’s commonsense approach on the radio this morning. Prison certainly does not work – except for most life-sentence ‘crime of passion’ inmates who rarely reoffend after release. This subsequent behaviour is, if at all, only marginally and indirectly determined by the prison experience. Most of these offenders surrender themselves to the police at the time of the offence, a fact which marks them out from others, and they remain on licence for the rest of their lives.

    NB While I understand the point Tanya’s trying to make above, and agree with her about alternatives to prison for most categories of offences, it’s important to stress that no crime is ‘victimless’. As with everything to do with human relations, the effect will be relative.

  4. B Clark says:

    Rather than scrap shorter sentences – which will just encourage petty criminals to carry on regardless – perhaps these shorter sentences should be accumulated and once they have reached 12 months should be applied. This would eliminate the ‘amateur’, but make the ‘career’ criminals think twice. It works for drivers – the more points you have the more careful you become about re-offending

    1. Mudplugger says:

      Good start, but could be developed further.

      For example, the real problem is with persistent, low-level crime. So maybe the first offence gets, say, 3 months. A repeat would get 6 months, the next would get 12 months, after that 2 years, and so on.

      That way, the ‘price’ of continuing in a life of crime becomes higher with each iteration. Not as blunt a weapon as the “Three strikes, you’re out” approach, but it’s one which would progressively increase the strength of the message to the offender that society is getting hacked off with that behaviour.

      True, he/she could eventually get a 64 year sentence for shop-lifting, but only after 10 repeated convictions – if they’ve not got the message by then, do we want them mixing with the rest of us ?

      And don’t forget that all the re-offending statistics only ever refer to ‘convictions’, not offences. We never get to know how many offences are actually committed – if we did, the data would be quite staggering and the daft Ken Clarke budget-plan would finally be locked up with them, where they all should be.

  5. Saltaire Sam says:

    Am I missing something? This private sector which is putting people back to work and now rehabilitating prisoners, is it the same private sector that is hunkered down and just hoping to get through the aftermath of (return to?) recession?

    The tory answer to every problem seems to be ‘get people into work’. A noble aim but where are all the jobs and will it be helped by making a million public sector workers unempoyed?

    Tanya is right, the solution to prison numbers is about education and getting people off drug dependency and the Daily Mail will see that as beng ‘soft’ on offenders, so it won’t happen.

    1. Tom Wright says:

      Its not the Daily Mail Jim. Its all of them, and the broadcast media too. The Mirror, Guardian, Times – all of them cannot see past the ‘story’, whatever that may be, from the govt ignoring the scientific advisors to the latest miaow maiow death, schizoid pothead or dehydrated raver, with the possible exception of the Independent.

  6. Anthony Martin says:

    Capitalism = inequality = Unemployment = poverty, misery & hate with no help = no choice & leads to JUSTIFIED crimes.
    Prisons are the dictatorial British way. They foster hate and bitterness & do nothing for peoples lives. The CAUSES, let me say again, the CAUSES of crime are perpetrated by corrupt government, no jobs & capitalism. People are very quick to stereo type prisoners as ‘louts’. Yes, some are but, the prison population has increased massively as a result of British dictatorial policies, inequality and people in desperate positions. For an example, take a look at Greece and watch how the prison population will increase there. It’s all about corrupt government and arrogant indifferent greedy people. I believe most crimes are justified if peoples lives are so miserable, in a society that proclaims to have a system that helps. Let’s be clear, there are NO jobs that allow people to ‘live’ and, the only ones going lead to poverty and misery. Take Channel 4s ‘Unreported World’ prog. showing how those in work in the US, are lining up in begging situations for food: http://tinyurl.com/2g8485y This is happening in the UK too but, the media, esp the BBC, avoid showing.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      I totally disagree with your analysis, Anthony.
      Capitalism = inequality = Unemployment = poverty, misery & hate with no help = no choice & leads to JUSTIFIED crimes..
      Capitalism certainly privides inequality, but it also provides opportunity and employment .Without it the alternative is state communism.As for poverty , we have no real poverty in this country.If you want to see poverty , go to Africa, India and parts of S.America .We have the welfare state as the protection against real poverty,and there is so much help around it is unbelievable.
      There is no such thing as justified crime!!!
      There are various degrees of crime and the real problem is how do you deal with it? As for corrupt government , i totally disagree.Yes there was the expenses scandal and that was unforgivable , plus there should have been more prosecutions,but basically our governments are not corrupt.Some politicians may be , but that is not the cause of crime.I believe there are two causes.Addiction is the main one and trying to keep up with the Jones,is the other one in a materialistic world. I will follow up this blog with my ideas for sentencing

  7. tanya spooner says:

    I take on board Meg’s comments that no crime is victimless. Some people are dangerous to the rest of us, and others are just exploitative. Old-fashioned I may be, but I do think the opportunity to work carries with it the possibility for growth, social contact, self-esteem and respect from others. As a former teacher myself, I know that adult illiteracy is linked to emotional stress and that these things can be overcome, so available spending should go on finding those in need of help, rather than building new prisons and writing, as New Labour did, thousands of new categories of crime into the statute book. Thanks to Saltaire for his agreement.
    Incidentally, I would pour all and any educational resources into primary schools, which could have the effect of stopping the very poor start that so many youngsters from poorer homes have to their school career.

  8. adrian clarke says:

    If a crime is committed,the severity of the crime should dictate the court it is heard in .As at present minor crimes should be at Magistrates court and major crimes at Crown Court.There should be no bail for cases submitted to Crown Court,but at the same time cases need to be expedited by both the prosecution and defence,and much less of the wasteful and costly adjournments.
    The magistrates court should have no right of imprisonment,but the right to give a prison sentence suspended.Any criminal coming before the court a second time should automatically get a suspended prison sentence.The third time ,they should be remanded and sent to crown court for sentence,which would be automatic prison.
    The minimum term should be four years.
    Prisons should become worshops,where prisoners can earn their keep.Privilidges should be kept to a minimum . Radios,but no tvs except for a communal one.No phones or computers except for work.
    That would remove many of the lesser prison sentences and criminals from our prisons .Send out a stronger deterrence lesson ,but those not going to prison for offences committed would need a much stronger regime of community punishments.

  9. Anthony Martin says:

    Adrian, time and again I come across defenders of the system and people who cause poverty and misery in society. I see these people as the true terrorists in this world. They are arrogant and indifferent to suffering. They are usually the perpetrators somewhere along the line.
    Capitalism allows for predation and encourages greed and domination of resources, supply lines and land. Any notion of a ‘drip down’ to poor people is false. Human nature is inherently selfish and thus, this system was always destined to fail. It’s a system as bad as communism.
    You clearly talk nonsense and are detached from the real world, to deny the UK has little poverty and, that the welfare state looks after people. You may remain blinkered and, I question why you are.
    Western governments ARE corrupt. You just need to wake up.
    Poverty & misery leads to justified crimes. Society does have problems with drug addicts and broken families but, these are the end product of a country of inequality and lives of utter misery. People turn to drink & drugs for escapism from their existence. They are very aware the the indifferent ‘Hang ’em & Flog ’em Brigade.
    I invite your next cantankerous reply.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Anthony , i respect you for your communistic views , but i do believe they are toatally wrong .In fact your views are probably to the left of communism and totally anarchistic..Any society can not exist without laws,and that includes laws of behaviour and reaction between citizens .To be effective those laws have to have penalties to stop the anarchy that you seem to favour.In your anarchistic society you would see real poverty where the weak fall by the wayside without any help.If you think we have poverty here i suggest you go to the Townships in S.Africa .No heating , no water or sanitation.No prospects,no schooling , no jobs .Living by the sword.If you can compare the UK to that , you are clearly in a parallel universe.
      Tell me this Anthony ,Eject all the Capitalists from this country and what have you left?? Where are the jobs?? Who is going to take over running and providing work??Where is the money to sustain the populace going to come from.
      Strip out the laws of decenct behaviour and who is going to protect the weak then? Given your way ,YOU will really see poverty

  10. Anthony Martin says:

    Adrian, I always get the same answer from those who fuel inequality with their ethos of capitalism. To use townships in S.Africa as a benchmark to measure the UK, is futile. The UK proclaims to be a developed country and forms part of the G8/G20. So, we expect it to be a beacon of inspiration but, truth is, it’s an example of superficial spin & lies. Behind millions of doors in the UK ‘live’ people in misery & poverty, akin to those in townships in S.Africa. The controlled media, esp BBC, do not show this because they are governed & manipulated by the rich and politically correct dictators.
    Predatory capitalism spawns inequality as a result of the division & migration of wealth to the few. To rely on a system that is predominated and controlled by the elite few, is indicated by the link I gave you in a previous reply.
    Rule of law is not set in concrete & nor should it be. When society expects respect for law then, law should provide a moral judgement that is not predominately biased in favour of the rich. In such cases these laws need challenging. Take a look at Nick Clegg today. He’s intending to repeal civil rights erosions put on UK citizens by Labours dictatorship.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      I wonder where you get your so called facts on poverty,Anthony.Where are these millions of people behind closed doors sitting in misery and poverty? What rubbish to compare any to the townships , obviously a place you have never seen ,nor the shacks on the outskirts of the towns in Sierra Leone ,India, Brazil.Before you write of poverty in this country you want to travel and see real poverty .I have!!
      You do not need the media to tell you there is no real poverty in the UK. I have been a visiting officer in Social Security , a Police Office , both jobs that see the worst side of life and i would challenge you to prove your views of overwhelming poverty in this country.What is your description of poverty??
      As for laws ,they surely do provide a moral judgement on society and most are there to protect said society.i.e Murder,Assault,Theft.I take it you are also an atheist who would deny the ten commandments as being moral.
      All laws can be challenged , but if by challenge you mean break then the perpetrator gets what he deserves when caught and punished .
      To be continued

  11. adrian clarke says:

    I am intrigued by your expression “predatory capitalism”, where you seem to have an unhealthy envy of anyone in control or rich.I don’t as long as they are responsible for giving opportunity and earnings through work to others.There are many small firms here and all over the country that the owners through their investment and risk provide jobs for many.They are the Capitalists you despise.Where are you going to replace those jobs if you get rid of capitalism?Something in your envy you choose not to answer.
    I do despise people like the bankers who gamble with other peoples money and pay themselves obscene salaries and bonuses .I do believe they should be controlled by law .You can add to that the Socialists who run trade unions and top civil servants. Yes there is a lot wrong with society, and the capitalist system , but as much as your vitriol runs it down , you have no workable alternative ,or if you do i would be pleased to read it and reply

    1. Anthony Martin says:

      I’m happy to pronounce that I do despise control/power freaks that enjoy down treading others for their own gain & gratification. If we talk about rich folk, we may have found some common ground if, these people have compassion towards others and society.
      If you can be bothered to take a look here, you see what drives me to hate division: http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/world/africa/drought+threatens+african+humanitarian+crisis/3697427
      Now, if a rich person helps out here, I would recognise their input but, only as a proportion of their disposable monies. For example, if you watch Channel 4s ‘The Secret Millionaire’, you will note these rich people have had to reach the millionaire status before they consider others. Even when they do, they only ‘give’ money they’ve not earned ie. interest on their account so, actually, they give very little. They get all the glory and, have their big egos boosted when, all the while some moderate earning persons stay out of the limelight and continues to give a disproportionate amount of help and money from the little they have.
      In reference to interpretation of ‘poverty’, I refer you to the link I gave earlier. Cont..

  12. Anthony Martin says:

    It comes as no surprise that your previous jobs have been positions of POWER. Both require arrogance and indifference. You ask me questions for facts then, spout off religious nonsense of ‘Ten Commandments’!
    I’ll clear up the religious side first. By ‘Ten Commandments’ do you mean the indoctrinated abuse of:
    1. Though shall not question Religious nonsense
    2. Though shall not question whether Mummy & Daddy have abused you through indoctrination
    3. Though shall not consider leaving thy shackles of brainwashing
    4. Though shall not tolerate other peoples views unless, they agree with yours
    5. Though shall not resist the ‘caring’ sexual advances from senior Clergy
    6. Though shall not report sexual abuse & indoctrinations from your preachers
    7. Though SHALL spread the indoctrination of human religious nonsense
    8.Though SHALL collude with thy fellow religious abusers and, protect, promote and enforce your beliefs
    9. Though SHALL keep on giving financially to thy church
    10. Though SHALL infiltrate governments (”God Bless America”, God Save The Queen’, etc) and enjoy their ‘support’.

    Clearly, I do not share ANY religious abusive beliefs.
    Continued…

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Anthony i feel really sorry for you.You live in a strange world that pours abuse on Britain and the Uk , stating poverty is rife in the UK , yet both links i have read, one refers to the USA and the other to saharan africa.Both i might add news bulletins that you seem to despise unless they agree with your warped view of society.
      I wonder why you consider the jobs i had , Navy , where i saw the world , Social security where i helped those in need , and the Police where i enforced the law of the land and attempted to protect those abused by their fellow men/women,as positions of power.I have no pension , other than old age pension , i am not rich, but i am not envious of those that are .I hate wrong doing whether it is by the poor or the rich.I will always fight for what i believe is right and best for my country.I am a Royalist , who hates the European Union.I do not believe we should be intervening in foreign countries. I believe the greatest danger to this country and its future prosperity is Socialism and anything left of that .I believe they have nothing to offer either for the prosperity of most and the care of those unable to care for themselves.You are the perfect example.

  13. adrian clarke says:

    continuation
    .Anthony , you are full of bile against the rich and against capitalism.That i could accept if you had any alternative to offer , but i have now asked you several times and non is forthcoming,Until you provide an alternative solution worthy of consideration i will treat your remarks with the contempt they deserve.

    1. Anthony Martin says:

      Adrian, you ask me to give an alternative to Capitalism, in among your character assassination attempts but, any alternative would never please your closed minded attitude. The free market economy under the guise of capitalism is promoted has the way of the west yet, it’s negative side is glossed over by a controlled media. The free market economics of Capitalism IS suppose to bear fruit and manifest in a betterment of society but, it clearly isn’t. It only rewards those who control the Lions share of resources. Human predation is inherent and is set free under capitalism to dominate through predatory gain. This results in a gradual decline in people ‘benefiting’ from a system that at first glance seems to promote hard work and reward. There is a very predictable outcome: Inequality, misery & poverty.
      As for your job in the Police, I note how you quote ‘enforce’ the law. Well, in your training you should have noted that you should ‘uphold’ the law not enforce it.
      Most people working at Social Security don’t give a monkeys for the unemployed. They’re just control freaks adding to the previous governments fiddled stats by getting rid of people from the count.

    2. Anthony Martin says:

      Adrian, I will make no apology at attacking the rich because, most of them are the disgusting greedy scum that create inequality and poverty in society. They are the benefactors of the scourge of Capitalisms predictable outcome and, they are the indifferent bastards that would rather see people die of starvation.
      These people are well connected in government, Banks, corporations and elitist corrupt individuals. When I consider the rule of law and how it pertains to these people, I can see it always favours their vile ways because they lobby & bribe government officials to get their own ways.
      You might be a ‘Royalist’, which I clearly am not, and you may serve ‘Queen & Country’, which I wouldn’t but, perhaps you need to think outside the box and remove your blinkers to societies ills. You ask me to show you evidence of mass poverty in the UK yet, even if I did you would scupper it. Anyway, go take a look at the Ghettos of Manchester, Liverpool, Bradford, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Birmingham, etc, etc. Poverty & misery is widespread in the UK. Peoples lives are worse now than in the ration years post WW2. Don’t be fooled by watching manipulated BBC. Watch Chan4

    3. Anthony Martin says:

      Adrian, I always get the same answer from those who fuel inequality with their ethos of capitalism. To use townships in S.Africa as a benchmark to measure the UK, is futile. The UK proclaims to be a developed country and forms part of the G8/G20. So, we expect it to be a beacon of inspiration but, truth is, it’s an example of superficial spin & lies. Behind millions of doors in the UK ‘live’ people in misery & poverty, akin to those in townships in S.Africa. The controlled media, esp BBC, do not show this because they are governed & manipulated by the rich and politically correct dictators.
      Predatory capitalism spawns inequality as a result of the division & migration of wealth to the few. To rely on a system that is predominated and controlled by the elite few, is indicated by the link I gave you in a previous reply.
      Rule of law is not set in concrete & nor should it be. When society expects respect for law then, law should provide a moral judgement that is not predominately biased in favour of the rich. In such cases these laws need challenging. Take a look at Nick Clegg today. He’s intending to repeal civil rights erosions put on UK citizens by Labours dictatorship.

    4. Saltaire Sam says:

      Adrian, As you know, I too am opposed to capitalism but own that it is hard, given human nature, to create an alternative, workabloe, system.

      But the Polyanna in me thinks there must be a way of creating a capitalism that is less exploitative and fairer.

      Take a simple example. Imagine (I know it’s hard!) that I have a great idea for a product that would be good for society but have no money to get it started.

      In my world, I deserve to gain from that, as do the people who invest money but as do the people who provide the raw materials and those who work on producing the product.

      In my scheme, workers in a company are just as important as mangement and shareholders.

      Another feature would be that rewards should be based on contribution to society rather than just high in areas that create big bucks. It is ludicrous that firemen were considered greedy asking for 30k a year whereas bankers (and footballers) make millions.

      I am also against us having cheap goods on the back of poor wages elsewhere in the world

      Finally, I don’t think anyone should make profit from basic services like health, water and banks. And we need a fair tax system that controls that.

  14. adrian clarke says:

    Saltaire i totally agree with you.The problem is how do you change the world or this country where the wealth is created on the back of communism.I could even agree with Anthonies untenable rants if he had a solution.Your suggestion on a product and how people benefit is correct.The problem is not Capitalism,but is those in charge,such as bankers,and the fact that money becomes the over riding objective.It is still there in the public sector,where the salaries of those in charge is rediculous , compared to the workers.

  15. adrian clarke says:

    Saltaire i totally agree with you.The problem is how do you change the world or this country where the wealth is created on the back of communism.I could even agree with Anthonies untenable rants if he had a solution.Your suggestion on a product and how people benefit is correct.The problem is not Capitalism,but is those in charge,such as bankers,and the fact that money becomes the over riding objective.It is still there in the public sector,where the salaries of those in charge is rediculous , compared to the workers.
    N

  16. adrian clarke says:

    I’m on a lap top and its messing me about .It just submitted before i finished.At least you , Saltaire try to suggest a solution,i can not do with Anthony’s vile ,inaccurate rants ,that offer no solution.
    One answer is the redistribution of wealth through the taxation system.Hardly a Tory policy.I begin to think Megs land tax has merits , but it still misses people like the footballers and bankers
    Animal farm comes to mind , when discussing such matters.Whoever gets to power , feathers their own nest .
    Finally Anthony’s so called Ghettos,well in Sheffield , they are Pakistani enclaves and i have worked there .They are not enclaves of poverty , far from it.I do not doubt they are the same in the other connurbations ,ethnic rather than poor.
    Anthon’s rants remind me of brain washed terrorists spouting obscenities with no idea of truth.

  17. Anthony Martin says:

    Adrian, I find it fascinating how you perceive my views as ‘rants’ because they don’t agree with yours!
    In reference to a solution to the scourge of Capitalism, this can only come about by radical changes and regulation to the negatives that capitalism allows: Domination through predation and, changes to allow for a better distribution of wealth with a retrospective clawback from the rich. Woman or men, who choose to be a proper parent and raise their own offspring should be allowed to transfer ALL their allowance to the partner/spouse for the whole time they are doing so. The general Rates & Water Rates & TV licence should be abolished and the revenue raised via taxes on the rich and the Banks. People should be prevented from holding real estate and inflating rents beyond what can be afforded. Out of work benefits should be abolished and replaced with loans that are repayable once the person has proper work or, they have to do a community payback to repay after a set time. This would remove the excuse of scum who complain about ‘their taxes’ paying for work shy people. The monopolies of corporate scum should be broken up and divided between locals.

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