IT’S easy to think there is just one threat facing us right now – a pandemic that risks so many of our lives.
But the hard truth is that in corners of our society crime goes on, and it will continue once this terrible virus has been defeated.
Our brave police will still be straining every sinew to tackle despicable acts of thuggery, rape and terrorism. It is this Government’s absolute priority to protect the public from such threats.
Sadly, the system we have today too often falls short of the mark.
Victims deserve a justice system they can trust. One that has the power to punish properly those who have harmed them and does everything to protect them from falling victim to crime again.
The way we sentence criminals and restrict them once released needs a drastic overhaul — which is why this week I will set out the most radical package of sentencing reforms in almost two decades.
Sentences are too complicated and often confusing to the public — the very people they are supposed to protect.
They can tie judges’ hands with cumbersome rules that seem to make little sense, leaving them at times unable to dish out the punishments they believe are needed.
Our reforms are long overdue. The same problems were already there 30 years ago when I first became a barrister.
Recent terror attacks in Britain sadly illustrate this all too well.
On two occasions, we were powerless to stop the release of a dangerous terrorist who went on to commit horrifying acts of violence.
The law had failed to protect us and we acted immediately after the attacks at London’s Fishmongers’ Hall and in Streatham, passing new laws to make sure that the worst terrorists and extremists serve longer sentences.
We also stopped them from being released from prison just halfway through their sentences, and put in place tougher supervision once they were back on the streets.
We are also making it easier for the victims who, through no fault of their own, end up in the criminal justice system. A new Victims’ Law will make sure they get better support from the police and courts.
It will make the process less daunting and ensure they have the help they need to recover. But we must do more. It is the first duty of every government to protect the public they serve.
That includes from dangerous criminals such as sex offenders and those who would harm children.
We have already brought in laws making sure the most serious sexual and violent offenders serve more of their sentence in prison — serving at least two-thirds behind bars rather than being released automatically at the halfway point.
We are now going further. Making sentences clearer, more transparent and ensuring punishments properly fit the crime. Child killers will face life behind bars with no chance of release. Even more rapists and violent thugs will be made to serve longer in prison.
We will create new powers to block the early release of prisoners who become a terror threat while in prison.
Judges will finally be able to impose whole-life sentences on 18 to 20-year- olds in exceptional circumstances, as was clearly needed for Hashem Abedi, the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber.
Teenage killers can expect to face prison sentences closer to those given to criminals aged over 18 in a law in honour of Ellie Gould, 17, who was murdered by her jealous ex-boyfriend.
At the other end of the spectrum, failures in sentencing have led to criminals reoffending time and time again, stuck in a revolving door of crime.
Our prisons are full of these types of criminals and in many cases their offending is fuelled by poor mental health or addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Yet our system of sentencing is not designed well enough to address the underlying causes of their crime.
This means they have little hope of rehabilitation and we as a society pick up the £18billion cost of their reoffending, as more victims are sadly created.
We will make the justice system smarter and one the public can trust to reduce crime.
Our reforms will create a system that is tough enough to keep the worst offenders behind bars for longer, protecting the public.
But also one that provides criminals with a way out if they want it. A way they can get over addictions or mental health problems. A way to find work and settle down.
A way that cuts crime and protects the public in a different way — by turning tearaways into taxpayers.
The public are fed up with sentences that just don’t work and so am I.
These reforms will rebuild their trust in the criminal justice system, making it one that cracks down on crime and keeps people safe.
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