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Picture 16 Jack Straw has just told the House of Commons that he is ending the Government's early release scheme for prisoners next month.

Anyone would think there was an election around the corner.

More to follow…

As the BBC reports, the scheme will phased be out from 12th March, with it finally coming to an end on 9th April.

Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve welcomed the announcement – not least because the Conservatives have been calling for its end for some time, noting that  under the scheme "80,000 criminals let out of jail early, including 15,000 violent offenders and two terrorists. Those released went on to commit 1,500 crimes, including several rape and murder offences."

But he sounded a note of caution:

GRIEVE DOMINIC NW "Today the Minister of State has also released a written statement to the House announcing a new contract which will promote the use of Home Detention Curfew. The Minister is explicit. She says the government wants and I quote: ‘courts and prison governors to make greater use of conditional bail and early release on Home Detention Curfew’ than they do at present? It seems what the Justice Secretary gives with one hand he takes with the other. Can he confirm that this will not simply mean more early release under another label?"

"On this side of the House we want an end to early release. But, it would compound the very recklessness of the scheme to end it when that can only be done temporarily. Or to re-introduce it under another name. On 9 February, the Minister of State was asked whether the government had plans to end early release. She denied such plans, but stated that the government would end early release, and I quote, ‘as soon as is practically possible’. What in less than two weeks has rendered what was then practically impossible today possible?

"Could it be the timing of the end of the scheme, on 12 March just weeks before an election is called which only confirms our fears that the government is acting out of political desperation, not the national interest. Is the Justice Secretary talking tough on crime before the election, to make it tough on us after?”

Jonathan Isaby

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