Violent offenders to face life terms if found guilty of second offence

 

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Violent criminals and rapists will be given automatic life sentences if found guilty of a second offence, Chris Grayling has announced.

Vowing to be a "tough Justice Secretary", he promised to toughen up community sentences and mocked "out-of-control human rights culture".

The new "two strikes and you're out" sanction for the most serious repeat offenders should come into force within months. Mr Grayling told the Tory conference: "Everyone deserves a second chance. But those who commit the most serious offences: crimes that would attract a sentence of 10 or more years, cannot be allowed to just go on and on causing harm, distress and injury. Those people are a real threat to our society and we must treat them as such."

The idea was first mooted by David Cameron last year and Mr Grayling told activists: "I've made no bones about my intention to be a tough Justice Secretary. That means I want our justice system to be firm, fair and transparent, one in which the public can have confidence, a system that punishes offenders properly." He also pledged to toughen community sentences to ensure "they deliver proper punishment", telling the conference: "We will make sure there is a punitive element as part of every community order. We are also legislating to use more state-of-the-art technology to enforce curfews and exclusion zones."

He said he wanted to see "more people who deserve it go to prison" – but he added that re-offending must be reduced by tackling the root causes of crime. He also launched a crowd-pleasing attack on the Human Rights Act. The new Justice Secretary lambasted the Act for being weighted towards criminals rather than victims.

He said: "It's just crazy that people who are determined to attack our society are able to go back to the courts again and again and claim that it would infringe their human rights to send them back to the countries they come from."

Juliet Lyon, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "The question remains whether the new Justice Secretary can secure prison as an effective place of last resort for serious and violent offenders or whether his tough line will propel numbers out of control at enormous social and economic cost."

Teaching unions hit back last night after the Education Secretary used his conference speech to accuse them of fuelling low expectations and under-performance in schools.

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