Shadow Justice Secretary opens up on knifepoint mugging

The Shadow Justice Secretary who was once robbed at knifepoint last night vowed to build more jails to ensure criminals receive the punishment they deserve.

Steve Reed, 59, was scared to go out at night after muggers beat him up and held a knife to his throat two decades ago.
Now he’s in charge of Labour’s plans to punish and rehabilitate offenders..

He said: “We need more cells. Offenders are getting away without the jail sentences their crimes deserve because judges have been told to avoid sending them to overcrowded prisons.”

The nation’s jails have room for 85,552 inmates but the Ministry for Justice admits the prison population is on course to reach more than 89,100 by November.

Judges were urged not to send criminals to jail in a letter from former Justice Secretary Dominic Raab to the Lord Chief Justice in February.

Mr Raab said: “You will appreciate that operating very close to prison capacity will have consequences for the conditions in which prisoners are held.”

Speaking to the Sunday Express, Croydon North MP Mr Reed said: “We will prioritise getting cells built so there are places to send offenders to.”

“The number of offenders avoiding prison is a sign of a completely broken criminal justice system.”

“They will commit more crimes and put the public at risk. They would not be offending if they were locked behind bars.”

Recalling his own terrifying encounter with violent crime, he said: “I did once get attacked at knifepoint, I was living in Clapham and walking back from Brixton after a barbecue and a couple of guys jumped out on me when I walked round a corner. Knife to my throat.

“They took what I was carrying, punched me in the stomach and ran off.”

He called the police and an officer took him in a patrol car to look round the neighbourhood but the offenders were nowhere to be seen.

“I got back home later on and looked in the mirror and saw a nick on my neck caused by the knife.”

“It was only at that point that I felt fear for what might have happened.”

“For some time afterward I was reluctant to walk the streets in the dark.”

“I know from personal experience what it feels like when you don’t feel safe in the streets and I know so many people feel that way today.”

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‘Drugs are very damaging’

Steve Reed insisted a Labour government will never legalise or decriminalise cannabis.

It puts him on collision course with Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who set up a commission to consider the case for decriminalisation.

Mr Reed said: “Absolutely not. There is no question of Labour doing that.

“There are places that have done that. New York, for example, and it’s made it a very unpleasant environment.”

“I don’t think we want to send any signal that drugs are okay. Drugs are very damaging.”

“The forms of cannabis around today can lead to severe forms of psychosis. Why would we want to encourage children to do anything that’s going to damage their mental health?”

As leader of Lambeth Council from 2006 to 2012, Mr Reed instituted a controversial policy of “naming and shaming” people who came into Brixton to buy drugs including cannabis.

It was an attempt to end the violence caused by gangs fighting over control of the drugs trade, he said.

As well as working with police to crack down on dealers, the council set up a website identifying people who had been arrested for buying drugs with the message “not wanted here”.

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