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  1. ITV Report

Violent criminals should spend more time behind bars, Boris Johnson says

Violent and sexual offenders could serve more of their sentences behind bars following an urgent review of sentencing policy ordered by Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister said dangerous criminals must be taken off the streets and punishments “truly fit the crime” if the public was to have confidence in the justice system.

Also on Monday, Mr Johnson announced an extra £85 million for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to help it manage its caseload over the next two years.

The CPS is independent of the police and Government and prosecutes criminal cases that have been investigated by the police and other investigative organisations in England and Wales.

The move follows a series of announcements over the weekend in which Mr Johnson promised to “come down hard” on crime.

They included a £2.5 billion programme to create 10,000 additional prison places and the extension of enhanced stop-and-search powers to police forces across England and Wales.

Boris Johnson said dangerous criminals must be taken off the streets. Credit: PA

It will fuel speculation that Mr Johnson is preparing the ground for an early general election amid continuing deadlock in Parliament over Brexit.

The sentencing review has been instructed to start work immediately and to report back to No 10 in the autumn, just as the country may be going to the polls.

Its remit is to look at the rules governing how and when violent and sexual offenders are released from prison.

Currently, offenders sentenced to 12 months or more serve the first half of their time in prison and the second “on licence” in the community, where they may be subject to recall.

The justice secretary, who will be conducting the review, said it will consider whether changes to legislation are needed so that more time is spent in jail.

Robert Buckland said it will be "focused on serious violent and sexual offences and the question of the automatic early release at half way through a prison sentence, which does apply to many offenders in that category."

He says reviewing the system is "prime minister's priority".

He added: "I think he's right for the system to focus in a more savvy way upon how to punish the offenders, protect the public and reduce reoffending."

Robert Buckland, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, says the review will focus on the 'automatic early release at half way through a prison sentence' system. Credit: PA

Mr Johnson highlighted the approach at a Downing Street round table, bringing together leaders from the police, probation and prison sectors on Monday.

He told leading figures in the criminal justice system that young people must be prevented from getting on "the conveyor belt to crime".

The Prime Minister said "you cannot just arrest your way out of a problem" as he addressed a group assembled in No 10, including the most senior police officer, Cressida Dick.

Mr Johnson said "faster justice" was required and cited pledges including increasing prison capacity and employing more officers.

"But no matter what we do with the criminal justice system we also have to recognise that you cannot just arrest your way out of a problem," he added.

"And I think all police officers, all representatives of the criminal justice system, will know that.

"You have to address the whole problem and, number one, you've got to stop young people becoming criminals, stop them getting on what used to be called the conveyor belt to crime, turn their lives around earlier, give them opportunities, hope and encouragement that they need."

Speaking ahead of the meeting, the PM said: “Dangerous criminals must be kept off our streets, serving the sentences they deserve – victims want to see it, the public want to see it and I want to see it.

“To ensure confidence in the system, the punishment must truly fit the crime.

"We have all seen examples of rapists and murderers let out too soon or people offending again as soon as they’re released.

“This ends now.

"We want them caught, locked up, punished and properly rehabilitated.”

One of those to welcome the review is Margaret Skidmore whose daughter Lisa was killed by a repeat offender who had been behind bars for 17 years.

Margaret Skidmore told ITV News she wants to see offenders serve their full sentence. Credit: ITV News

Nurse Lisa, 37 was strangled by Leroy Campbell in 2016 just weeks after the rapist told his probation officer he felt he might reoffend.

His past crimes included attempting to strangle a nurse in 1983, a rape in 1992 and he served eight years longer than his sentence after being rejected for parole.

"He told them he felt like doing it again and they never recalled him," Lisa's mother Margaret told ITV News.

"If they'd have recalled him my daughter would have still been here."

Lisa Skidmore was killed by Leroy Campbell in 2016. Credit: ITV News

She added: "They're still coming out and committing crimes, so if they were put away in the first place they wouldn't come back to do it again did they."

She said if someone is given 20 years in prison as punishment for a crime, "they should serve 20 years, there should be no parole and no special privileges".

However critics warned that there was no evidence that longer sentences would result in a reduction in crime.

Repeat offender Leroy Campbell killed Lisa Skidmore after being released from prison. Credit: ITV News

The Solicitor General, Michael Ellis QC, said the additional £85 million for the CPS would ensure it was equipped to deal with an increase in cases brought to them by the police.

At present offenders sentenced to 12 months or more serve the first half of their time in prison and the second "on licence" in the community, where they may be subject to recall.

The review will consider whether changes to legislation are needed so that more time is spent in jail.