'What Is The Point Of You?': BBC Presenter Skewers Tory Minister As Criminals Spared Jail

Judges have reportedly been told not to send burglars and rapists to prison because there is not enough space.
Prisons have reached capacity.
Prisons have reached capacity.
Dan Kitwood via Getty Images

A Tory minister was asked “what is the point” of the government amid reports that violent criminals could be spared jail because prisons are full.

The Times reported that Lord Edis, the senior presiding judge for England and Wales, has ordered that sentencing of rapists and burglars who are on bail to be delayed until the problem is resolved.

On Radio 4′s Today programme this morning, health secretary Steve Barclay was asked by presenter Justin Webb if the story was true.

He said: “It’s the judiciary who decide in terms of sentencing. That’s an independent decision that’s taken by the judiciary.”

But Webb hit back: “You’re washing the government’s hands of this really basic, fundamental thing.

“There’ll be people around the country saying, ’My goodness, if you cannot keep serious criminals off the streets, what is the point of you?’”

Barclay replied: “That is a very fair question. It’s a statement of fact that the judiciary are independent and a statement of fact that they determine sentencing rules.”

The minister said the government had ended automatic release for prisoners halfway through their sentences and that serious sexual offenders were now in prison for longer.

Webb then pointed out: “You’re not denying The Times story that really serious offenders are going to be out on bail.”

The latest official figures showed the prison population stands at 88,016 – a rise of 223 on a week earlier. The estate’s capacity stands at 88,667 – meaning there are only around 650 places left. The most recent set of projections estimate the prison population will hit 94,400 by March 2025.

The government has floated plans to rent prison space from foreign countries to ease the pressure on UK prisons.

The lord chancellor and justice secretary, Alex Chalk, told Tory conference last week: “This government is doing more than any since the Victorian era to expand prison capacity.

“Alongside our extra 20,000 prison places programme, refurbishment of old prisons and rapid deployment cells, renting prison places in other countries will ensure that we always have the space to keep the public safe from the most dangerous offenders.”


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