Home Secretary Priti Patel last night accused Sir Keir Starmer of being soft on crime after it emerged that the Labour leader had suggested that rapists, murderers and terrorists who committed offences when they were below the age of 25 should be treated more leniently.
Ms Patel made her remarks after a recording emerged in which Sir Keir suggested that the age at which the criminal justice system regarded defendants as ‘young people’ should be raised from 18 to 25.
Sir Keir told the youth charity My Life My Say: ‘We made quite a lot of adjustments for young people, either who were victims or young people who were defendants, because, you know, things are very different…
‘We tend to think in the criminal justice system of people under 18 as young people, actually I think it should be under 25. There are a range of things for people under 25 that need to be accommodated in the criminal justice system.’
Ms Patel (pictured) made her remarks after a recording emerged in which Sir Keir suggested that the age at which the criminal justice system regarded defendants as ‘young people’ should be raised from 18 to 25
The Crown Prosecution Service, which Sir Keir used to run as Director of Public Prosecutions before entering politics, recommends that the age of offenders should be given ‘significant weight’ when issuing a sentence.
Dozens of offenders in notorious cases have been aged under 25. Labour opposed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill when it had its second reading in the Commons last week – legislation that paves the way for increased jail terms for sex offenders and people who assault emergency workers.
Ms Patel said: ‘We all know Keir Starmer tries to talk a tough game on law and order. But the evidence presented suggests otherwise. This week he voted against measures to increase jail sentences for child murderers, sex offenders and killer drivers.
‘We now know he wants to go further by giving criminals and terrorists an easy ride. Sir Keir’s soft touch on criminality confirms the Labour Party’s desire to do more for the criminal minority than the law-abiding majority.’
But last night, a Labour spokesperson denied that Sir Keir believed that the age of young offenders should change.
A spokesperson said: ‘This discussion was about the general approach to young people – both victims and defendants.
A Labour spokesperson denied that Sir Keir (pictured) believed that the age of young offenders should change
‘Keir was not suggesting a change to the definition of young offenders – it is simply not something he believes in. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong.’
Under current rules, the minimum length of a life sentence is shorter for ‘young’ criminals under the age of 18.
The Criminal Justice Act 2003 states that the starting point for determining the minimum sentence where the offender is under 18 years of age, is 12 years as opposed to 15 years for those over the age of 18.
‘Young’ criminals under the age of 18 receive custodial sentences only in the ‘most serious’ cases, and in young offender institutions rather than in prison.
Criminals aged between 18 and 25 at the time of their offences include Manchester Arena bomber Hashem Abedi, who was 23 in 2017; and Michael Adebowale, who was 22 when he was one of the two men who killed Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013.
In the recording, Sir Keir also called for the voting age to be lowered to 16, saying: ‘I’m a massive fan of votes at 16.’
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