Howard hits back at Taylor

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The Independent Online

Home Affairs Correspondent

The Prime Minister yesterday leapt to the defence of his Home Secretary who is facing an unprecedented attack from the country's leading judges over his criminal justice programme.

John Major told the Commons the Government's aim was to "protect the public from dangerous criminals".

He was forced to his feet in the Commons following accusations from Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, and Britain most senior judge, that the government was unleashing a torrent of hasty and flawed legislation, which was in danger of undermining public confidence in the system.

In particular he told Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, that his plans for mandatory life sentences for repeat rapists and violent offenders and stiff penalties for persistent burglars and drug dealers, would do nothing to deter crime.

Mr Howard, who on Wednesday had sought to diffuse the situation by remaining silent, admitted there were "differences" between himself and Lord Taylor.

He said: "Lord Taylor apparently believes it is acceptable for these serious offenders to continue to be released without any assessment being made of their risk to the public, even if everybody knows that there is a risk that they will go out and commit a third rape or a third murder."

He told the BBC: "I'm sure he doesn't want those people to be released but that is what actually happens now; 90 per cent of those people are released even if everybody knows they are still a risk to the public. I want to remedy that."

News analysis, page 15

At War over the Law, page 17