John Reid to announce shake-up of Home Office

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Indy Politics

John Reid will unveil a shake-up of the Home Office and the criminal justice system this week in an attempt to restore public confidence in the Government's law and order strategy.

The Home Secretary will announce measures to "rebalance" the system in favour of victims. People convicted of the most serious offences will no longer be eligible for automatic early release halfway through their sentences.

The move follows the outcry over the case of Craig Sweeney, a paedophile who kidnapped and sexually assaulted a three-year-old girl. Mr Reid condemned his minimum sentence of just over five years as "unduly lenient" but Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, decided not to refer the case to the Court of Appeal.

Yesterday allies of Mr Reid denied that the new rules were a response to a single case but confirmed that they would address the issues raised by the Sweeney affair.

The Home Secretary will also change the law to make it easier for victims of crimes to sue offenders for compensation. The present six-year time limit will be extended following the case of the rapist Iorworth Hoare, who won £7m on the lottery.

Mr Reid faces a critical two weeks as he seeks to regain the initiative on law and order after a baptism of fire since succeeding the sacked Charles Clarke in May. Today he will outline measures to tackle serious crime in a blueprint for the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

On Wednesday, he will reform the Home Office's structure and way of working after admitting that parts of it were not "fit for purpose". The following day, he will announce changes to make the criminal justice system "fit for the 21st century". Other measures will include closer supervision of dangerous criminals who win early release. Next week he will shake up the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, which came in for criticism over the release of more than 1,000 foreign prisoners who were not considered for deportation.

Yesterday Tony Blair admitted the Home Office was not "fit for purpose" but insisted the Government had made "tremendous progress" on issues such as crime levels, police numbers and anti-social behaviour. "We're not unique, we're not the only country debating immigration, law and order at the moment. All countries are," he told the BBC.

The Prime Minister said plans to bring in a national identity card scheme would go ahead on the original timetable.

Mr Reid faces a setback on Thursday with the publication of crime figures showing that robberies and muggings have risen sharply in the past year.

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