Howard under fire

A leading barrister said last night that a judge's decision to reduce a prison term on a mugger who stole a pounds 12,000 Rolex watch illustrated why mandatory sentencing would not work.

In a veiled criticism of Michael Howard's plans unveiled in his Crime Bill, Chris Sallon QC said judges' freedom to sentence according to the merits of individual cases was vital.

Judges had the right, enshrined in law, to change their mind about a prison term and impose a less harsh penalty for up to one month after the original sentencing.

Greg Lynn, of the Victims of Crime Trust, said crime victims could feel insulted by criminals receiving lighter sentences in recognition of the fact that they have pleaded guilty.