by Charlie Peters
Wednesday, 13
April 2022
Debate
14:44

Could Labour become the new law and order party?

Focusing on crime could be a golden attack line for Keir Starmer
by Charlie Peters

British justice is on life support and Labour knows it. A freedom of information request actioned by the party has revealed that murders by former prisoners has soared over the last three years, with a total of 685 convicts being sentenced for murders after release in the last decade. One-third of those re-jailed committed their sentences between 2018 and 2020, with 251 ex-con murders representing the deadliest three-year period since the government starting collecting data in 2003.

Quyen Hgoc Nguyen of North Tyneside was targeted during the last violent decade of reoffending. The 28-year-old was raped, tortured and murdered by Stephen Unwin, 42, and William McFall, 53, who were both sentenced to life in prison in the 1990s after the separate murders of pensioners they had burgled. The Vietnamese mother-of-two had hired the pair, who met in prison, to work as handymen on some flats she rented out after they were released. 


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Unwin was released from prison in December 2012, with Northumbria police receiving 26 items of intelligence between then and his killing of Quyen. In July 2017, a month before he killed Quyen, Unwin told a woman in a Facebook message that he would “smash her jaw in” and take turns with an accomplice to rape her. A detective inspector declined to take the issue further.

There are hundreds of stories just like Quyen’s, where lives could have been saved and grieving relatives spared interminable suffering. For a party that once prided itself on law and order, the Conservatives have largely failed in this role — and that is why it could prove a potent attack line for Labour. 

Now, the party is focusing on murders by former prisoners in its press release, but serious reoffending is rife across the board, with the number of so-called “double lifers” — people given life sentences, released, and then given the same sentence for another crime — rising by 129 in the last decade. Data released in response to a request from Labour showed that 80 ex-offenders were convicted of murder in 2017/18, 97 in 2018/19 and 74 in 2019/20. This averaged 84 per year, up from an average of 62 for the seven proceeding years.

Despite reassurance from the Ministry of Justice, there is little hope that things will improve. With a crumbling prisons estate, the Johnson ministry faces extreme pressure to release dangerous offenders and reduce the overcrowding burden that afflicts much of the system.

Thanks to Covid-19, prisoners set to be released soon to free up space for others will have endured the additional struggles of solitary confinement. For much of the pandemic, many were kept in their cells for 23 hours a day for months without respite. If we are going to take a risk in releasing an offender back into society, everything must be done to ensure they are ready to so. Peter Clarke, the last chief inspector of prisons in England and Wales, said the restrictions were causing “irreparable damage” and expressed concerns that “very little” was being done to prevent reoffending. 

These concerns, mixed in with the Conservative dereliction of duty over justice and the decay of the prisons system, represents a significant threat to the peaceful population, and a golden attack line for Labour. Following its stern comments about Extinction Rebellion, the party seems to have rediscovered a knack for tapping into what British voters actually want to hear.

Crime could therefore be the issue that helps Labour finally restore its capacity to provide a decent opposition. The Conservatives have failed to adequately deal with crime in their tenure, occasionally talking tough but always acting lightly, offering a route to redemption for Labour.

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Ian Barton
Ian Barton
7 months ago

Do Labour know what a “woman’s” prison is ?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
7 months ago

Is this satirical? Starmer the prosecutor who chose not to prosecute paedophiles?

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
7 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Sounds more like desperation to me. “Please, somebody, anybody, do something about this!”

polidori redux
polidori redux
7 months ago
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
7 months ago

Rotherham and Rochdale.

Matt M
Matt M
7 months ago

Great news! Now Labour are onboard for tougher sentencing, Dominic Raab should introduce new legislation to make murder carry a mandatory full life sentence without the possibility of parole. I’m sure Sir Kier will instruct his MPs to vote for it.
It would finally honour the explicit promise made, in the 1965 Murder Act that abolished capital punishment, that the death penalty would be replaced with life imprisonment.

Last edited 7 months ago by Matt M
Alastair Herd
Alastair Herd
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Funny how that ended up isn’t it…

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
7 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

At £90K per annum ‘Life Imprisonment’ is just too expensive. Only the USA can afford such luxury.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

The enormous cost is of course part of the problem. On the whole long sentences don’t seem to be the deterrent most of us think they should be so a combination of left-leaning prison reformers trying to reduce sentences for prisoners and right-leaning treasury ministers trying to reign in expenditure results in murderers coming out quite quickly and frequently reoffending.
The solution of shipping murderers off to cheap third-world prisons while good for the treasury would be resisted by all the left-wing interests as being too harsh for the prisoners so I can’t see Starmer introducing this reform.
The fact that many killings involve men whose normal inhibitions against killing is affected by drug or alcohol abuse is likely to be affected by the ease of obtain alcohol and drugs. Again I don’t see Starmer wanting to tighten up on the availability of either.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Thank you, all rather grim!

RJ Kent
RJ Kent
7 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Perhaps lifers could be subbed out to Rwanda as well; I imagine that would be a vote winner.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
7 months ago
Reply to  RJ Kent

Yes, isn’t that splendid news ………………..at last!
However I dare say every type of sabotage will be used to derail it.
Let’s hope Boris and chums can stick to their guns for once.

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

Then we need lower cost prisons. How is it possible to spend this much ? Hotel accomodation might come in cheaper. Get EasyJet on the case.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

‘Transport’ the whole lot to Africa. There must be dozens of African countries only too willing to provide prison facilities.
Perhaps we should start with South Africa?

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
7 months ago

This is delusional – it would be like asking a bear to acquire a bidet and a bathroom with chintz curtains.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
7 months ago

This is the sort of nonsense that happens when you let the Blue Sky Thinking get out of hand. A bit like the transgender stuff some folks believe that if you say it often with a straight face it makes it true.
Starmer and the Labour C-Suite can try and position this way on the basis that Starmer was a prosecutor. You can see how their minds are working. What they seem to have forgotten is that the Labour Party shop floor (membership) is packed chock-a-block with people who don’t really subscribe to the “law and order” vibe. So if Starmer hopes to become a sort of RoboCop fan that will just increase tension in the Party. Kamela Harris suffered from exactly this with the “Kamala is a cop” meme from inside the Democratic Party.
Bottom line is that Starmer can’t go too far this way without leaving a big chunk of his activists behind and fuming. And then he has to hope that none of them go in for any police bashing just to spite him. That’s a stretch because the police really are leading with their chins at the moment.

Last edited 7 months ago by Samuel Gee
Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
7 months ago

We’ve all seen what happened in America. Left wing party runs on a centrist agenda, gets into power and is beholden to its most extremist elements. Exactly the same would happen here.

Harry Child
Harry Child
7 months ago
Reply to  Matthew Powell

Yes like the defund the police slogans from America only for the left wing Governors see crime and murder rates accelerate

j morgan
j morgan
7 months ago

Not when they’ll be insisting trans identified males belong in women’s prisons

Peter B
Peter B
7 months ago

First we should be told the percentage of successful major prosecutions brought by the CPS during Keir Starmer’s leadership. There is a track record here to be checked. I’m not sure it’s that impressive.
The Tories may be almost useless, but I’d put good money on Starmer’s Labour still managing to do worse. Mainly because in their guts they’re always on the side of the “victim”. Or “defendent” as we would put it.

james curtis
james curtis
7 months ago

‘I can fix it for you’ Starmer was no great success as Head of prosecutions, his Union Bosses have never been keen of observing the law either. If he cannot decide if a woman can have a willy, how will he decide anything at a in the real world.

David McDowell
David McDowell
7 months ago

How can a party led by the man who let Jimmy Savile off the hook reinvent itself as the party of law and order? Good question.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
7 months ago

The offical figures for murder rates can be found here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/appendixtableshomicideinenglandandwales
Labour must be truly desperate.

james curtis
james curtis
7 months ago

Did you know that some UK prisons are run by French companies, we must be the only country in the world to allow a foreign government to control our convicts, and at what cost.