‘Virtual prison’: Community sentences could be strengthened

By politics.co.uk staff

No 10 could force justice secretary Ken Clarke to turn community sentences into a 'virtual prison' for offenders, according to reports.

Whitehall negotiations are currently ongoing over whether to toughen up community sentences in the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill, which is currently working its way through parliament.

Under the reported proposals offenders could find themselves under virtual arrest. Electronic tags would be used to ensure they comply with curfews keeping them in their homes for 16 hours a day.

Their passports, driving licences and credit cards could be confiscated in new powers given to judges and magistrates.

Doubts have been voiced about whether the harsh new measures could be enforceable. Reports suggest ministers are considering authorising handing those who breach the terms of their community sentence time in jail.

The move could convince judges and magistrates to impose less short-term sentences, which have helped push Britain's prison population up to new highs in recent months.

Figures released yesterday showed 945 criminals had been handed custodial sentences as a result of last summer's riots, putting further pressure on the UK's criminal justice system.

Talks between the Ministry of Justice and Downing Street are ongoing, with a consultation document on community sentencing policy not expected to be released for another six weeks.

Only three-quarters of community sentences and orders which ended in 2010/11 were successfully completed.