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Violent Britain: Blair attacks policy on sentencing

THE HOME Secretary, Michael Howard, was last night accused of concentrating too much on long prison sentences to combat crime.

Tony Blair, Labour's home affairs spokesman, said a cursory look at the crime figures revealed the inadequacy of this policy. Only one in 50 crimes resulted in a conviction and 49 in 50 crimes never reached the courts.

'The Home Secretary's response to this appalling level of offending has been to concentrate on the policy that 'prison works',' he said in the foreward to a Labour report on crime.

Mr Blair said it was vital to develop a crime prevention policy to reduce the offences which were untouched by a tougher sentencing regime.

He called on Mr Howard to implement the Morgan report, a government study published in 1991, which recommended imposing a statutory responsibility on local authorities to develop community safety and crime prevention programmes.

Local authorities should introduce a package of measures to deal with crime after careful analysis of the local problems, he said. It would include preventative community policing in high crime areas; more money for locks and bolts, and lighting; action against truancy; tackling racial harassment; and tackling drugs abuse.

Labour is using examples of action against crime by Labour-led local authorities as part of its local election campaign. Examples highlighted by Mr Blair included Camden and Islington, covering King's Cross, in London, where the police had used tough measures, including the use of videos, to crack down on drug dealers and prostitutes; and Kirklees, West Yorkshire, where security improvements at car parks had led to a one-third reduction in car crime.

Young people should be given incentives such as education awards to take community service jobs David Blunkett, Labour's spokesman on health, said last night. He urged Labour supporters not to reject the ideas in a 'knee-jerk reaction' because they were controversial.