Blunkett offers criminals 'weekend jails'

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The introduction of "weekend jails" where criminals will serve part-time sentences was announced by David Blunkett yesterday as he spelt out plans that will form the basis of Labour's law-and-order platform at the general election.

The introduction of "weekend jails" where criminals will serve part-time sentences was announced by David Blunkett yesterday as he spelt out plans that will form the basis of Labour's law-and-order platform at the general election.

The Home Secretary promised extra cash for prison places, compulsory fostering sessions for unruly teenagers and powers to "name and shame" youngsters who breach anti-social behaviour orders.

He coupled a boost in spending on tackling terrorism with a staunch defence of controversial legislation aimed at al-Qa'ida suspects, warning his critics that Labour would lose public trust forever if it failed to protect the country properly.

Amid pressure to reduce the prison population of 75,000 - the highest in Western Europe - Mr Blunkett is pressing ahead with a scheme allowing convicts to serve part of their sentence in jail and part in community.

The Intermittent Custody Programme, which was criticised by victims' groups last night, is intended to prevent offenders serving short sentences from losing their jobs and homes. Mr Blunkett said the initiative could also benefit women prisoners who risk seeing their families broken up if their children are taken into care.

The Home Secretary announced funding of £100m for a programme to reduce pressure on the prison system by creating 1,300 more places and hiring an additional 1,800 probation staff by 2006.

Police numbers had risen to a record high Mr Blunkett told the conference and they would soon be backed up by 25,000 civilian community support officers. He staunchly defended measures allowing the indefinite detention of foreign terrorist suspects without charge, which has been heavily criticised by civil liberties groups.

He said the "real threat" to democracy had been demonstrated by this year's atrocities in Madrid and Beslan. "Let me tell you this - if we did not do what we are doing and we did not get it right, we can say goodbye to a third term in government. One thing is absolutely certain - we would never be forgiven again if we did not take the legislative measures necessary to back up our counter-terrorism and security forces and made sure no one threatens our lives."

The Home Secretary also announced the Government was allocating another £90m for counter-terrorism measures, mostly for MI5. The rest will be spent on protecting the national infrastructureand buying protective equipment for the emergency services.

Several fresh initiatives for dealing with anti-social behaviour were also announced - one of the top issues for many MPs - including a pilot scheme where criminal youngsters, whose family circumstances are judged a factor in their behaviour, will go to specialist foster homes for up to 12 months.

Youngsters who breach anti-social behaviour orders will be named and shamed in their local media - a legal loophole allows them only to be identified when the orders are issued - and police will launch a three-month drive to shut down "crack houses" in the New Year.

Mr Blunkett received applause when he announced a draft Bill bringing in an offence of corporate manslaughter would be published in November. He said: "No one should be allowed to get away with gross negligence and the killing of others, which has been the case for so long."

In a foretaste of likely general election battles, he denounced the record of Michael Howard, the Tory leader, when he was home secretary. During his term, police numbers fell by 1,100, crime rose and prisoners "went over the wire in their hundreds", Mr Blunkett said.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, retorted: "David Blunkett continues to talk tough on anti-social behaviour but it will take more than Home Office rhetoric and gimmicks to tackle the problem.

He added: "Under this absurd policy of part-time prisons, prisons will not be a place of punishment or rehabilitation but a hotel for criminals."

Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman said: "People would much prefer it if Mr Blunkett spent more time developing tough and effective solutions rather than just talking tough. We need long-term solutions not just headline-chasing quick fixes."

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