Criminals to have benefits cut

Benefit claimants who break the law will be stripped of up to five times as much state cash per week in fines in a clampdown ordered by David Cameron in the wake of the summer's riots.

Courts will be given the right to demand payments of £25 per week instead of the present £5 maximum to show offenders they cannot get away with paying "the bare minimum", the Prime Minister said.

Of the 1,350 people hauled before the courts for their part in the disorder that hit the streets of England in August, 40 per cent were claiming a state benefit of some kind, official figures show.

A total of 500 (35 per cent) were claiming an out-of-work benefit, compared with 12 per cent of the general working population in England and 45 per cent of all offenders sentenced for an indictable offence last year.

In all, 100 were claiming disability living allowance, 60 were claiming incapacity benefit and some may have been claiming both.

The new maximum deduction will come into force in 2013 to coincide with the introduction of Universal Credit - the Government's new welfare payment system that rolls several existing benefits into one.

Courts will retain discretion over how much to demand in weekly repayments towards any fine they impose.

A £25 hit would represent around 37 per cent of the present rate of jobseeker's allowance.

Mr Cameron, who is in Perth, Australia, for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, said: "People need to understand if they commit a crime they will face the consequences.

"The system as it stands at the moment is far too soft and does not always send the right signals.

"(Work and Pensions Secretary) Iain Duncan Smith and I are determined to see responsibility and fairness restored to the welfare system and this clearly does precisely that.

"If you commit a crime and you are on benefits, you can no longer expect to get away with paying the bare minimum."

Mr Duncan Smith said: "The summer's riots showed that, for some people, the present system did not make them think about what they were doing.

"The PM and I were clear that we would look at all parts of the benefit system and ensure that people feel the full effects of their actions.

"I do not want to be in the business of leaving people without any money to support themselves but, equally, individuals must know that they cannot commit crime that impacts on the livelihoods and the communities of hard-working people without consequences." PA