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Blair calls for UK criminal justice reform

[JURIST] UK Prime Minister Tony Blair [official website] on Friday called for new laws to narrow the gap between the public's desire for justice and outcomes that are perceived to unfairly favor defendants, in a a major criminal justice policy speech [transcript] delivered in Bristol. Citing public concern over recent controversial decisions [JURIST report] involving sentences for sex offenders, Blair said:

The public are anxious for a perfectly good reason: they think they play fair and play by the rules and they see too many people who don't, getting away with it. By the public I don't mean the "hang 'em and flog 'em" brigade. I mean ordinary, decent law-abiding folk, who believe in rehabilitation as well as punishment, understand there are deep-rooted causes of crime and know that no Government can eliminate it. But they think the political and legal establishment are out of touch on the issue and they are right.

So when we introduced ASB [anti-social behavior] legislation, it was ridiculed and in part watered down. Each piece of asylum and criminal justice legislation has been diluted, sometimes fundamentally in the Houses of Parliament. Each law on terrorism has been attacked, in one case as posing more threat to the country's safety than the terrorism itself...

I have come to the conclusion that part of the problem in this whole area has been the absence of a proper, considered intellectual and political debate about the nature of liberty in the modern world...The problem with the reform movement was not that it failed. On the contrary it succeeded. And, out of the great achievements of 19th century penal and legal reform, flowed an unintended consequence: the ideal of being a liberal in this field became associated, subtly and insidiously, with ensuring the fair treatment of suspects and criminals, detached from an equivalent concern with victims.
In conjunction with Blair's speech, the Prime Minister's office has published six policy papers written by UK criminal law experts, a number of which are overtly critical of government policy. BBC News has more coverage of the surrounding debate, while the Guardian reports on Blair's speech.

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