Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the head of the new Ministry of Justice, held out the prospect yesterday of shorter sentences for “non-dangerous” prisoners to ease jail overcrowding.
On his first day as the Secretary of State for Justice, it was confirmed that the number of prisoners in England and Wales had reached 80,303, an all-time high.
Lord Falconer said that “dangerous people have to stay in prison until they cease to be dangerous – if necessary remaining in prison for life”.
But he would be looking at ways of helping to prevent re-offending by non-dangerous criminals, such as shorter jail terms or effective community penalties.
The head of the UK’s equivalent of the FBI has admitted that his agency has yet to make a significant impact, and that it has been bedevilled by organisational problems since its launch.
Sir Stephen Lander, who runs the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca), said mistakes had been made, though he insisted that it was working through them.
The Guardian has learned, however, that there is severe disenchantment among staff. Hundreds of officers are said to want to be transferred back to their former organisations. An unpublished internal Mori survey shows that less than 5% are satisfied with the way that Soca is being run.
The head of the national crime agency has said UK’s drugs strategy is “making no difference” and needs a radical new approach.
Sir Stephen Lander, the chairman of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) – described as Britain’s answer to the FBI – admitted that when it comes to the fight against drugs “we are not winning so we must try something else as well”.
The former head of MI5 said that the traditional law enforcement approach to drugs – seizure and imprisonment – has failed to reduce the availability of illegal substances, such as cocaine and heroin, in this country.
The UK’s carbon emissions rose by an estimated 1.25% last year, according to provisional figures published today, but the environment secretary, David Miliband, insisted the government is still on track to meet its Kyoto targets.
Mr Miliband admitted the increase was “worrying” and said the figures underlined the importance of efforts to tackle climate change “both from government and wider society”.
He said the rise in carbon dioxide emissions had been driven by unusually high international gas prices leading to a switch to coal for electricity production.
One in three secondary school pupils is skipping school.
Although ministers have spent £1billion trying to tackle truancy, figures show that almost a million children, aged 11 and over, dodged some of their lessons in the last school year.
Almost 220,000 “persistent absentees” miss the equivalent of nearly two days a week through truancy, illness or term-time holidays.
And the problem is much worse than previously thought. A new system of collecting data has found that truancy levels are 18 per cent higher than previous Government statistics showed. The difference amounts to an extra 7,000 skipping school every day.
The National Consumer Council (NCC) and energywatch today warn the government and the energy industry that time is fast running out to eradicate a Victorian affliction that still haunts our affluent 21st century society.
While all eyes are on the government’s imminent energy white paper, and its big-picture plans for future energy policy, almost four million UK households – twice as many as 2003 – struggle to afford to heat their homes adequately.
They need to spend more than 10 per cent of their income on gas and electricity – almost three times the share of everyone else. Poorly heated and insulated homes, high energy prices and low incomes conspire to make their lives a misery – and give the UK one of the worst fuel poverty records in northern Europe.
Petrol prices have pushed past the 90p per litre mark for the first time this year.
The national average is now 90.28p per litre, having started the year at 88.32p, the AA said.
The lowest figure this year for petrol was on February 1 when it was 86.0p a litre – a price last seen in June 2005.
Average diesel prices are now 93.34p per litre. But the gap between the price of petrol and diesel has closed from 5.26p at the beginning of the year to 3.06p.
Last year, UK average petrol prices hung at around 90p per litre from January 22 until March 15, before soaring more than 4p in a month.