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UK criminal justice review calls for tougher sentencing rules, more rights for victims

[JURIST] Responding to recent controversy over UK sentencing guidelines [JURIST report] and following up on a major June policy address [JURIST report] by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Home Secretary John Reid [official profile] on Thursday released a criminal justice system review [PDF text; summary] making several recommendations aimed at putting the rights of victims before the rights of criminals. To strengthen sentencing procedure, the Home Office recommended ending automatic sentence reductions in exchange for guilty pleas, ending automatic parole consideration rights for life prisoners, requiring unanimous parole board votes to release prisoners, and deporting more foreign citizens to serve sentences in their home countries. To give victims a stronger voice in the process, the Home Office is recommending that parole board members dealing with violent or sexual offenders have personal experience with such crimes, that victims be allowed to speak at such hearings, and that prosecutors always consider the interests of the victim when prosecuting. The Home Office also announced plans to construct 8,000 additional prison cells.

The reform announcements coincided with the release of new UK crime statistics [press release] demonstrating that violent crime rates have remained steady in recent years, as well as the announcement of a plan to reform the Home Office itself [press release] by increasing public accountability and cutting staff. Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the Home Office [press release] on Thursday for its recent efforts. BBC News has more.

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