Plan To Target Career Criminals

So-called “career criminals” could be banned from mixing with former associates when they are released from prison under Government plans. Failure to abide by the terms of strict licences might mean returning to jail for up to three years.

The move – which will require legislation – is understood to be among a raft of recommendations from Downing Street’s law and order policy review, due to be launched by Tony Blair.

The document is expected to stress the importance of dealing with a “hard core” of around 100,000 miscreants who are responsible for half of all crime committed in England and Wales. Among that number are an even harder core of 5,000 thought to commit one crime in every 10.

But it will also signal an acceptance by the Government that more stress needs to be put on rehabilitation of offenders, rather than merely locking people up. A senior Whitehall official said the aim was to have a “smarter” approach to tackling crime, which targeted “the offender rather than the offence”.

Proposals thought to be on the table include “tough and effective community sentences” as an alternative to prison, such as removing non-cash assets and driving licences; more rehabilitation in jails; keeping prisoners in contact with their children; and more therapy and less reliance on drugs to treat mentally ill offenders.

Judges would have wide-ranging powers to impose licences when dealing with “middle ranking” offenders – such as burglars – typically serving between a few months and a few years.

They could specify that the individuals stay away from a particular area, particular people, or get treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.

The review is also due to back “early intervention” by identifying at a very young age children at risk of going off the rails – previously labelled “Baby Asbos”.