MR PENDLE: Don’t let criminals out of jail too early

THERE has been much written and said in the last few weeks about the plans by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke to reduce jail sentences by as much as half should a defendant enter a guilty plea at the first opportunity.

Now there was a time when Mr Pendle thought Mr Clarke to be quite a good chap.

He came across as a more down-to-earth Conservative compared to some of his colleagues whose adopted airs and graces they thought made them superior to the rest of us many found off-putting.

But his more recent comments in the field of law and order have Mr Pendle - and a lot of other people - deeply concerned.

The present system whereby a prisoner can expect to see sentences cut by a third in return for a guilty plea is probably about right.

But those who have committed serious crimes deserve to be locked up - for a long time.

It cannot be right for the public at large to be put in danger by having these dangerous individuals on the streets.

There are, of course, many people in prison who should not be. Many need help from other sources and incarcerating them in a prison cell does them no good at all.

But there are many others who deserve to be locked away but who, if Kenneth Clarke has his way, will be released too soon - and that is why the Chancellor is right to ask him to find other ways of making savings in his department’s budget.

‘Everybody’s talking about it’, one national newspaper reported the other day. Just what it was that had grabbed the writer’s far-fetched imagination Mr Pendle cannot even begin to remember.

What he can remember, though, is that he had never heard of what everyone was supposed to be talking about until he read the story, and so to test it out, he listened around the pubs of Colne that same evening to find out what people were discussing.

And guess what?

They spoke about their work, their families, their friends, their football club, whose round it was next and so on.

The topic that was meant to have the nation gripped in a frenzy never passed anyone’s lips.

Mr Pendle will accept that the Wallace Hartley and the Red Lion may not be the most reliable testing grounds of public opinion.

But when not one person raises a matter that is supposed to be on everyone’s lips throughout an entire evening, Mr Pendle believes it is he who lives in the real world, and those who say “everyone” is talking about something are on another planet.