Clarke blames riots on 'broken penal system'


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The Independent Online

The Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has blamed a "broken penal system" for the riots that broke out across England last month.

In his first public response to the widespread disorder, Mr Clarke also called on the Government to address an "appalling social deficit" that was highlighted by the riots.

His linking of social problems to the riots stands in contrast to comments made by David Cameron, who said they were "not about poverty" but were instead about "a culture that glorifies violence".

Writing in The Guardian today,Mr Clarke said: "Punishment alone though is not enough ... . Locking people up without reducing the risk of them committing new crimes against new victims the minute they get out does not make for intelligent sentencing."

The Justice Secretary revealed that nearly three-quarters of those people aged 18 or over who were charged with offences relating to riots already had a prior conviction.

"That is the legacy of a broken penal system – one whose recordin preventing reoffending hasbeen straightforwardly dreadful,"he said.

He repeated his plans for "radical" reform of the penal system and also called on the Government to tackle the social causes behind the riots.

"The Coalition has a renewed mission: tackling the financial deficit, for certain. But also, importantly, addressing the appalling social deficit that the riots have highlighted."