Parole Board attacks Howard

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The Parole Board yesterday became the latest organisation to attack the Home Secretary's tough sentencing proposals which it argues will put the public at risk from dangerous criminals.

In a strongly worded condemnation of Michael Howard's plans for persistent criminals, the board said that the proposals made reoffending more likely and would "prejudice the safety of the public".

The comments, which were published yesterday in the board's annual report, follows widespread criticism from the judiciary, opposition groups, and penal reformers.

Mr Howard is expected to publish a Bill in the next few weeks which proposes tougher sentencing on repeat offenders.

The board is concerned about plans to abolish automatic release for prisoners serving less than four years after completing half their sentence and the removal of discretionary parole for long term offenders. In future, prisoners would get 15 to 20 per cent deducted from their sentence only if they behave well.

The board concludes: "We believe that the proposals will lead to an abandonment of [the] rehabilitation process, replacing [an effective] system with one which will be worse in almost every respect. This will result in poorer protection for the public. The board strongly believes that the Government will be making a serious, and potentially dangerous mistake."