Clarke undermines Bill despite signs of progress: Reformers argue that 'panic' measures should be shelved. Heather Mills reports

THE FURORE following the killing of Jamie Bulger, pictures of juveniles mocking authority, and a seemingly relentless surge in crime have prompted the Home Secretary to condemn and review his predecessors' criminal justice policy.

But reformers argue Kenneth Clarke should be defending the new Criminal Justice Bill rather than decrying it. As figures published yesterday indicate, the crime wave appears to be subsiding - when the prison population, once condemned as the highest in Europe, is significantly lower. Numbers peaked at just over 50,000 in 1988, when discussion on the then proposed Bill started. The total is now 43,266, seven months after implementation.

'Shouldn't Mr Clarke be saying that the efforts of previous Home Office ministers are meeting their aims?' they ask.

The philosophy behind the latest Criminal Justice Bill was that prison was an expensive way of making bad people worse. The idea was to keep children and non-violent offenders out of jail and to lock away for more substantial periods, the murderers, rapists, and violent robbers. It was designed to end prison overcrowding, Britain's reputation for sending too many people to jail, and perhaps to stop recidivism.

Mr Clarke, no doubt motivated by pressure from Tory grass roots and given recent impetus by criticism of the Bill from the Lord Chief Justice, has made no secret of the fact that he thinks it was ill-founded - the work of wishy-washy liberal officials.

Since he became Home Secretary, Mr Clarke has questioned the Bill in a way that far more right-wing Home Secretaries, such as David Waddington, now Lord Waddington, did not.

He has undermined three central planks of previous government policy. He has halted the decision to find alternatives to custody for juveniles and decided to introduce a new kind of approved school. He is questioning greater use of bail for the unconvicted and, following outspoken criticism of the fettering of judges' discretion over sentencing, he has agreed to look again at Section 29 of the Bill. It attempted to stop persistent petty offenders serving longer sentences than, for example, a rapist.

Mr Clarke has also agreed to review unit fines - whereby people pay penalties in accordance with their disposable income - because of anomalies.

The Bill's advocates agree unit fines may need adjustment but argue that the rest of the Bill is not a 'criminals' charter'. They point out, for example, that the crackdown on young people has come when juvenile offending over the past 10 years has dropped by 37 per cent.

Stephen Shaw, of the Prison Reform Trust, said: 'The backlash has been fuelled by politicians on both sides, playing the law and order card. Evidence that we are in the grip of a crime wave may be based on political and press hype rather than a reflective look at the crime figures'.

Andrew Rutherford, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, suggested the new figures 'were a cause for pause among the moral panickers'. And Harry Fletcher, representing probation officers, said while there were anomalies in the Bill, Mr Clarke should not tamper with its basic philosophy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness