'We Must Have Tougher Jail Sentences for Violent Crime'

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Byline: By Phillip Nifield South Wales Echo

Prime Minister Tony Blair demanded a courts crackdown on violent criminals with tougher sentences to take them out of circulation. Mr Blair, speaking to the Echo, said that new powers should also be used to close trouble-hit pubs and clubs in crime hotspots.

The Prime Minister, on what is expected to be his last visit to Wales before he leaves office, was told about attacks on a Cardiff taxi driver and street robberies in the city. In Cardiff, there is at least one mugging every day with villains threatening or assaulting victims for handbags, cash and mobile phones. He told the Echo: 'Incidents of street violence are a massive issue. We have given the powers under the Violent Crime Reduction Act for really tougher sentences on these people. That's what it needs - really tough sentences. They need to be taken out of circulation. And we have worked with the mobile phone companies and I don't think people quite understand this but, in fact, these stolen phones are shut off within 48 hours so it's a mug's game all the way around. The snatching of a mobile phone from somebody is robbery and the courts should deal with in a tough way.'

Asked whether the public should be told of crime hotspots so they can take action to protect themselves, Mr Blair said: 'It is important that we all share information with the public. But the most important thing is that we crack down hard on where those troublespots are happening. There are powers now for pubs and clubs to be shut down if there is continual violence at them. There are a range of penalties and in my view violence when drunk should be an aggravating not a mitigating factor.

'We have given the powers to crack down and we have to make sure those powers are used. Where there is violence and these appalling attacks on taxi drivers the courts should hand down very tough sentences. …