In the Media

Halfway release for most dangerous criminals is to end

PUBLISHED July 20, 2006

JOHN REID will announce today plans to ensure that violent offenders, rapists and paedophiles spend longer in jail.

The Home Secretary wants to end the present system under which offenders given discretionary life sentences for crimes less than murder, and those given indeterminate sentences for public protection, are not considered for parole automatically at the halfway stage of the minimum term laid down by the judge. Mr Reid wants judges to be given much greater discretion in sentencing so that they can order that certain offenders must serve longer than the halfway point of the minimum term ? the tariff ? before being considered for release by the Parole Board.

Under the plan, to be announced by the Home Secretary this afternoon, rigid guidelines under which judges must give a sentence discount of one third for a guilty plea are to be scrapped.

Mr Reid wants the judges to have much greater discretion in giving discounts for early pleas. He is acting after the public outcry in the case of Craig Sweeney, the paedophile from South Wales who received the discount despite being caught with the child.

The Home Secretary?s proposals to rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of the law-abiding majority will also include plans to insist that all Parole Board decisions on release are unanimous and the creation of a dangerous offenders protection order for prisoners freed from jail but about whom there remain concerns that they may harm the public.