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Picture 19 In the Queen's Speech debate yesterday, Chris Grayling opened for the Opposition as the main topic of the day was Home Affairs.

He opened his speech by taking the pledges Tony Blair made in his famous "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" speech in 1994, and contrasted his promises with what has happened after twelve years of Labour Government:

"First on the list were measures to tackle juvenile offending. They have been a feature of virtually every one of the 49 criminal justice Bills that we have had since then. We have had initiative after initiative and new idea after new idea. Surely that must have made a difference. The number of persistent young offenders sentenced by courts in England and Wales have increased by 92 per cent. since 1997. In 2007–08, more than 93,000 youngsters aged 10 to 17 entered the criminal justice system for the first time, up from only 78,000 five years previously, in 2002–03. Just a couple of weeks ago, Home Office research showed that 72 per cent. of 10 to 25-year-olds admitted to committing crime or antisocial behaviour within a four-year period.

"The next bit in the speech was the plan to crack down on illegal firearms. Over the past decade, there has been a big jump in gun crime. The number of firearms offences, excluding air weapons, has increased from 5,209 a decade ago to a provisional figure of 8,184 in 2008–09, an increase of 57 per cent. The number of people injured or killed by a gun has more than doubled, increasing from 864 a decade ago to 1,760 in 2008–09. Behind those figures have been a series of high-profile tragedies, punishment shootings and a culture of weapons on our streets not seen previously.

"Tony Blair then talked about the need to punish properly crimes of violence, including racial violence. Violent crime has increased from 615,000 offences in 1998–99 to just over 1 million in 2008–09, an increase of 68 per cent. In 1998, 23,500 people were cautioned for violence against the person. In 2007, that figure had doubled, to 52,300."

"The fourth pledge given before the Government took office was to give the victims of crime the right to be consulted before charges were dropped or changed. What a hollow promise that turned out to be, particularly given the Home Secretary’s comments just last week that “in an ideal world” every victim would be “visited by the police”, though it was admitted at the time that doing so would be “rather challenging”. If we talk to the victims of crime, a very different picture emerges—one in which they receive very little information about what is going and are not sure even when trials are happening. The Home Secretary has talked to victims of crime, so he knows that the promises made to the victims of crime back in the 1990s have not been fulfilled a decade later."

"Tough on crime? Fifteen years after it was first made, that promise now looks pretty hollow. By the test that Mr. Blair set for a future Labour Government back in that first conference speech, in office they have failed again and again."

Jonathan Isaby

10 comments for: Chris Grayling contrasts the rhetoric and the reality of Labour’s “tough on crime” mantra

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