The retiring lord chief justice, Lord Woolf, today makes a passionate plea for a new approach to law and order which would see a major shift away from punishment towards the solution of problems which generate crime.

Writing in today's Guardian, Lord Woolf suggests a shortlist of four strictly limited categories of offenders who might be imprisoned and - in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of government ministers - he adds: "We need wider understanding and acceptance that the principles of sentencing are not just founded on punishing offenders."

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