The Conservatives in Brighton: Criminal justice review defended

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KENNETH CLARKE, the Home Secretary, insisted yesterday that the new Criminal Justice Act would be implemented as planned despite spending constraints.

During a surprisingly low-key debate, in which he conceded that few people in Britain any longer felt secure from crime, and in an implied criticism of some of his predecessors, Mr Clarke said he had been appointed by the Prime Minister earlier this year with a clear purpose: 'I must restore public confidence in the effectiveness of our criminal justice system and develop a new relationship of trust between the public and the police.'

The Act, which came into force this month, would be 'implemented in the way the Conservative government intended', he promised.

It provides for prisoners to serve more of their sentences in jail before release on parole, an increase in community service instead of custody, and increased powers for courts to sentence juvenile offenders to detention.

In a briefing to journalists after the speech, Mr Clarke implied that finance for the new measures would have to come at the expense of other money on his department's budget. 'The Home Office is no more immune than any department,' he said.

He told his first conference as Home Secretary that he was most worried by young offenders. 'The overall number of young offenders is happily declining.'

He added: 'The problems we all know about are caused by a small hard core of persistent young offenders, who commit serious crimes against the person and property of innocent citizens and who persistently offend and re-offend again.

'In the same way there are a few persistent offenders of all ages who often re-offend whilst out on bail.'

Mr Clarke also said he was worried by the excessive use of cautioning by police on persistent juvenile offenders, which gave them the impression they could get away with crimes.

(Photograph omitted)