and PATRICIA WYNN DAVIES
A radical overhaul of the criminal justice and court system is being planned by Labour in a renewed attempt to snatch the law-and-order mantle from the Conservatives.
Weekend and evening court sessions, with judges and magistrates given more powers to manage cases, are under consideration. Labour would also revamp the Crown Prosecution Service running alongside each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales to ensure prosecutors and police are more in tune with and accountable to their communities.
Draft proposals in a paper for "tougher action on crime", obtained by the Independent, include plans for heavier penalties for crimes of violence and those involving weapons, and new offences of racial harassment and racially motivated violence.
The preparations for the development of the law-and-order platform coincide with plans by Tony Blair, the Labour leader, for a switch of emphasis at October's annual conference away from the mod- ernisation of the party and towards promoting policies that "new" Labour would deliver.
Party managers judge that the time is right for a shift towards a more policy-driven conference than last year's - dominated by Mr Blair's announcement that he planned to rewrite Clause IV - because the concept of a new Labour party has been established.
Law and order is considered by some of Mr Blair's advisers as the …