Britain's Tories adopt stiffer penalties for violent crimes
Britain's Conservative government, which pledged in last June's general election to adopt tough measures against violent criminals, is taking steps to translate words into deeds.
At her party's annual conference in Blackpool, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher heard the new home secretary, Leon Brittan, announce radical changes in sentencing policy. Mr. Brittan's crackdown includes minimum 20-year terms for those convicted of killing policemen and prison officers or of committing sexual or sadistic child murders. The same penalty would apply to terrorists and armed robbers who murder.
Violent criminals and drug traffickers, Brittan said, should no longer expect early parole. Instead, the home secretary will personally supervise parole policy and ensure that heavy sentences are served.
Brittan's program for dealing with serious crime received a surprisingly restrained reaction from Tory delegates. Many are still disappointed that Parliament earlier this year rejected moves to reintroduce the death penalty.
The new policies will change the balance between treatment of serious and less serious offenders. While parole rules are tightened for violent criminals, they will be relaxed for prisoners serving short sentences.
In future many inmates will be eligible for parole after serving six months, instead of the present year. This may relieve prison crowding by cutting the overall numbers of inmates by more than 2,000.
Brittan has ordered studies to be made of day or weekend prison for minor offenders, and low-cost camp-style prisons are being considered.
A further unusual measure would mean that ''over-lenient'' sentences in rape cases be passed to the appeal court. This is aimed at reminding judges that their sentencing record will be under steady scrutiny.
The new measures are designed to allay public concern over the growth of violent crime in Britain, particularly in urban areas.