He is to introduce new standards for supervising offenders in the community next month, giving the courts 'firm guidance' on how to deal with difficult cases. For the protection of the public, some persistent offenders - young and adult - must go to jail, he said.
The Home Secretary's move coincides with steps by Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Services, to end the payment of housing benefit to single people who are serving jail sentences. Under present regulations, they can draw the payment, worth an average pounds 2,000 a year, for 52 weeks.
Vivien Stern, director of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, said of the plan: 'If people have nowhere to live, it is more difficult for them to stay on the right side of the law.'
But the Government feels the issue of law and order needs to be reclaimed for the Conservative Party. Mr Howard yesterday expressed 'enormous admiration' for Barry Hayes, the Liverpool man savagely beaten after he ticked off youngsters who were vandalising his car. Mr Howard endorsed Mr Hayes's attack on those who focus more on the offender than on the victim.
He said: 'I think that do-gooders have had too much of an influence over our criminal justice system in some rather important ways.'
His comments came after police in Buckinghamshire expressed dismay that a 15-year-old girl, accused of assaulting one of their officers, is being taken on holiday to Malaysia by the county's social services, with a susbsidy of pounds 400 of public money.
Mr Howard reiterated his plans to extend the role of Neighbourhood Watch schemes, emphasising that he did not want ordinary people to tackle criminals themselves.
Frank Dobson, Labour's campaigns co-ordinator, said: 'It beggars belief that Michael Howard can blame do-gooders for the giant increase in crime since the Tories came to power.'
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