LETTER: The judges were right

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THE judges' opposition to Michael Howard's proposals on sentencing ("The long arm of the law", 5 November) differs from earlier criticisms of government policies: their comments have not been solely directed to their own constitutional position, but have addressed the potential impact of the measures on crime.

The Lord Chief Justice has emphasised the limitations of severe sentencing as a deterrent to crime, while judges have argued that some aspects of the Home Secretary's proposals could increase offending. They are right. Mandatory prison sentences would prevent a judge from sentencing a burglar with a drug habit to a probation order combined with drug rehabilitation; yet this sentence is more likely to prevent re-offending than imprisonment is.

Paul Cavadino

Chair, Penal Affairs Consortium, London SW9