Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

New DPP Clashes with Blunkett on 'Grotesque' Longer Jail Terms Plan

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

New DPP Clashes with Blunkett on 'Grotesque' Longer Jail Terms Plan

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN LEAPMAN

THE new head of the prosecution service was at the centre of a row today after he delivered a damning condemnation of government plans to lengthen prison sentences.

Ken Macdonald warned that Home Secretary David Blunkett's penal policies would have a "grotesque" effect on the already severe problem of overcrowding.

He claimed that some sentences for drug smugglers were too long and accused successive home secretaries of adopting American rhetoric on law and order, egged on by a "punitive" climate in the media.

The attack from the man appointed last month as Director of Public Prosecutions will infuriate Mr Blunkett, whose flagship Criminal Justice Bill to lengthen prison sentences for murderers and other offenders is going through Parliament.

It will also alarm many Tories. The Opposition has highlighted Mr Macdonald's record at defending Islamic and Irish republican terrorist suspects. Mr Macdonald went public with his criticism in a speech to MPs in July, just before he was appointed as DPP. Details from the minutes of the meeting were leaked to a newspaper and published today.

They showed that the new DPP is "pessimistic" about the prospect of reducing the number of inmates in Britain's jails. The figure has ballooned from 60,000 to 73,000 since Labour came to power in 1997. Mr Blunkett's Bill would impose a 15-year minimum sentence for most murders, 30 years for those kill policemen on duty and a "life means life" tariff for sadistic child- killers or terrorists.

According to the minutes of the July meeting, Mr Macdonald said of the Bill: "This would have an extraordinary effect on the prison population but in particular on the long-term prison population which may be the most difficult to manage." He claimed that politicians adopted tough policies on sentencing because the political benefits were seen to outweigh the principles at stake. …

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