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Clarke's sentencing discounts ditched

21 June 2011

David Cameron has abandoned completely justice secretary Ken Clarke’s plan to increase sentence discounts for people who plead guilty at the earliest stage from 33 to 50 per cent, it has emerged.

Downing Street sources promised that the plans would be scrapped last month, after the justice secretary found himself at the centre of a furious row for appearing to suggest during a live radio interview that rape was not a serious offence (see solicitorsjournal.com, 19 May 2011).

Senior judges had already warned that the discount scheme would undermine public confidence in the justice system. In a later twist, national newspapers were briefed that the increased discounts would not apply to serious crimes such as murder and rape, but would apply to other crimes.

With solicitors eagerly awaiting details of the legal aid cuts and Jackson reforms in this afternoon’s justice bill, national newspapers were briefed again yesterday by the Ministry of Justice that the government had decided to drop all the discounts.

No news has yet emerged on the fate of legal aid and the Jackson reforms to costs in civil actions. It is understood that the justice bill will receive its first reading today and its second reading next week in a bid to rush it through as soon as possible.

Other sources say that the committee stage will have to wait until the autumn.

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Procedures