Blair launches major review of crime policy

The prime minister has launched a comprehensive review of crime, designed to focus on the offender not the offence.

Security, Crime and Justice outlines a raft of measures designed to update the criminal justice process, extending Labour’s decade old pledge to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.

Reform is based around three areas; the prevention of crime, detection and enforcement and reforming the criminal justice system to make it work for law abiding citizens.

The government wants new initiatives to identify at-risk children and intervene to prevent crime. At the same time security will be improved to make crime harder to commit.

Asset recovery is “critical” to the fight against crime, and the government wants extended powers to include “lifestyle property”, such as luxury items, under the asset recovery laws.

In a more liberal stance, the review also recommends prisoners maintain more contact with their children, while treatment of prisoners with mental health problems should be less reliant on medication and more reliant on therapy.

Speaking at a conference on public services reform, Mr Blair also called for an extended role for the voluntary sector, to work alongside a well paid and properly supported police force.

The new measures will target the 100,000 repeat offenders who commit half of all crime, Mr Blair said.

“These measures are the best way to tackle the hard core of criminals,” the prime minister argued. “These people have serious problems and targeting the offender means taking those problems seriously. And we have proof that it works.”

However, the Conservatives have dismissed the document as a “rag bag of ill thought out ideas” and accused the prime minister of “grandstanding” in the final months of his leadership.

Shadow home secretary David Davis said: “What we need is a clearly thought out penal policy that takes the worst criminals out of circulation, punishes them, gets them off drugs and, where possible, rehabilitates them.

“This is likely to prove impossible until this government gets a grip on overcrowding in prisons and the chaos in our courts and ends its obsession with tying our police up in endless red tape.”

But, the Liberal Democrats welcomed the review as a “long overdue u-turn” in government policy

“We have been warning for years that new Labour’s obsessive pursuit of headlines, over-reliance on ever more illiberal legislation and fanatical ‘get tough’ rhetoric do little to tackle either the fear of crime or its root causes,” said crime spokesman Nick Clegg.

“With one of the highest rates of repeat crime in the western world it is high time the prime minister recognised that his decade-long experiment in populism must come to an end.”

Nevertheless, the prime minister and home secretary John Reid defended the government’s prior record on crime.

Mr Blair said the government had effectively tackled crime with increased sentences for serious offences, new neighbourhood policing teams, action on organise crime and new biometric passports and ID cards to secure borders.

At the same time, it had “not forgotten that crime has deep roots”, and launched the minimum wage, new deal, tax credits and school reforms to tackle social exclusion.

Mr Reid added: “Security, crime and justice are the issues that most concern the public. It is important we continue to build on past successes in this area with new ideas that will lead to a safer society.

“Crime is down by 35 percent since 1997 but there is no room for complacency. We know that criminals will continue to find new ways of breaking our laws and attempting to avoid justice, we need to be one step ahead ensuring that the most serious and persistent offenders are dealt with swiftly and efficiently.”

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) warned the review “does nothing” to address the strategic weaknesses of the police services.

ACPO president Ken Jones added: “Whilst we wait to see the detail of the policing review, we are determined to continue to do all we can to reduce bureaucracy, build on neighbourhood policing and make the best use of our resources despite being faced with a huge gap in funding over the next three years.”