The Conservatives in Brighton: Howard Fires 27 Shots at Crime
Colin 9 Bu* Q Mills and Terry Kirby, The Independent (London, England)
THE RIGHT of silence is to be removed, the Home Secretary told the Conservative Party conference yesterday. Michael Howard announced a 27-point law and order package which will clamp down on young offenders and lead to more criminals being jailed.
Mr Howard, who is aiming to restore grassroots support for the Government and tackle public fears over rising crime, described the measures as "the most comprehensive programme of action against crime" announced by a Home Secretary.
His performance was rewarded with a pat on the back from John Major. Cabinet colleagues said the Prime Minister would use this Thatcherite law and order package - delivered by the most right wing Home Secretary since the Tories came to power in 1979 - to reassert his leadership authority.
Many of the proposals will be included in a wide-ranging Criminal Justice Bill, which will dominate the next session of Parliament; other legislation may be needed for measures on terrorism and jury and witness intimidation. The most contentious issue, the removal of the right to silence, may not require legislation because the principle is not written in statute.
The package includes ending the presumption in favour of bail; doubling to two years the maximum sentence in young offender institutions; setting up training centres for offenders aged 12-14; creating two new terrorist offences; and inviting the private sector to build and run six new prisons to take an expected increase in prisoners.
The Home Secretary earned an enthusiastic standing ovation from the packed Winter Gardens hall in Blackpool which had earlier heard appeals for the return of the death penalty and for young offenders to be birched.
Mr Howard told representatives: "Let's take the handcuffs off the police and put them on the criminals where they belong."
Announcing that community sentences would be toughened, he added: "Yobs who break the law shouldn't be taken on holidays abroad . . . let's get them pick
ing up litter and scrubbing off
Despite recent warnings that such proposals would lead to prison overcrowding and the conditions that sparked the Strangeways riot, Mr Howard said he was making no apologies for any increase in prisoners. Home Office sources confirmed military camps could be reopened if needed.
The proposals were applauded by the police, who also welcomed his acceptance of all 16 recommendations of an unpublished report on cutting paperwork. But the measures were condemned by opposition parties, reform groups and lawyers as an erosion of civil liberties and a "hangers' and floggers' charter". …