A WOULD-BE MP has criticised "soft justice" and called for more criminals to be sent to prison.

A pre-manifesto document released by the Liberal Democrats last week said the party would do more to keep women and young people out of prison and would support an enhanced role for restorative justice.

However, Peter Cuthbertson – Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Darlington – has accused the party of backing “soft justice for young thugs” in its support of initiatives like restorative justice, which offers offenders the chance to meet their victims and make amends for their behaviour.

He also criticised a recent suggestion by Labour Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan to raise the age limit for youth justice and offending teams from under-18 to under-21.

He said: “Labour and the Liberal Democrats are both putting sentimentality before realism about the misery that juvenile crime inflicts.

“Some of the most prolific offenders of all are under 18 and their crimes should be taken seriously.

“What difference does it make to decent people whose lives are made a misery by young thugs if those thugs happen to be under 18?”

Mr Cuthbertson, who also runs the Centre for Crime Prevention thinktank, suggested higher reoffending rates in juveniles could be linked to ‘softer’ approaches, such as restorative justice – despite government research suggesting the process accounts for a 14 per cent reduction in reoffending.

He added: "Juvenile criminals are less likely to go to prison - so unsurprisingly they have much worse re-offending rates than adults.

“The Labour and Lib Dem policy of soft justice for even more young thugs is ridiculous.”