Police chiefs attacked for opposing Howard reform

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The Independent Online
The head of a senior police association yesterday attacked what he described as "young" and "so-called progressive" chief constables for opposing Home Office proposals for tough new sentencing regimes.

At the same time, Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, conceded that his plans for a crack down on repeat offenders may fail to become law before the general election if opposed in Parliament. His proposals cover minimum sen- tences for repeat burglars and drug dealers, and automatic life sentences for second-time sex and violent offenders.

The accusation of attitudes being too liberal came from Chief Superintendent Brian MacKenzie, president of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, speaking at its annual conference in Stratford-upon- Avon. He had heard of university-educated chief constables opposing Mr Howard's key planks, but said it was "in the national interest" for them to go through.

Mr Howard, speaking at the conference, stressed that the proposals should pass to the statute book." However, they have already prompted stern opposition from the judiciary, including the previous Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor. In May, Lord Taylor said: "Never in the history of criminal law have such far-reaching proposals been put forward on the strength of such flimsy and dubious evidence."

The judiciary believes minimum sentences would limit their discretion in fitting punishment to cases. The measures would also increase the prison population.

Jack Straw, the shadow Home Secretary, says Labour will oppose any plans for the removal of judicial discretion. tNew legislation to outlaw stalking could be on the statute book before the next general election, the Home Secretary said yesterday.