Howard accepts UK holidays for offenders: Prison sentence 'not always necessary'

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Indy Politics
THE Home Secretary suggested last night that it was permissible for young offenders to be taken on character-building holidays as long as they were not taken abroad.

Answering questions before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, Michael Howard said there was a range of punishments available, adding: 'I do not think it is necessary to take young people out of the country.'

But he stressed it was not necessary to send offenders to prison every time: 'We have always made it clear that detention for young offenders is for those who are not benefiting from the alternative.'

Mr Howard's statement follows the case of the juvenile offender from Gloucestershire who went on an adventure holiday in North Africa with his social worker as part of an attempt to change his character: he is alleged to have committed traffic offences within days of his return.

During a 90-minute hearing in front of the committee, Mr Howard was questioned on a wide range of topics which included racial attacks and miscarriages of justice.

Pressed by Chris Mullin, Labour MP for Sunderland South, on the timetable for implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission for an independent body to investigate possible miscarriages of justice, Mr Howard said that he would have preferred to have included the matter in the current Criminal Justice Bill, but it was too complex.

A consultation paper to allow the public to comment is due to be published shortly with legislation in the next session of Parliament, he said.

The Home Secretary rejected suggestions from Mr Mullin that his department was delaying its consideration of new submissions in the Carl Bridgewater murder case, in which three men are serving life for murder. He said that the considerations had to be 'thorough and painstaking'.

Mr Howard refused to give a guarantee that he would preserve the right of jury trial for offences triable by magistrates or crown courts which the commission advocated scrapping, saying his department had not yet made up its mind.

He said the Home Office was still 'working through' the recommendations of the commission and would shortly issue a report. He was also due to receive the report of the May inquiry into the Guildford Four case, delayed by the commission's deliberations.

Questioned by Barbara Roche, Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, over the use of leather body belts on deportees, Mr Howard said that moving potentially violent people on and off aircraft made belts a necessity.