LAW and order has been high on the agenda during the General Election campaign.

The rival parties are determined to show that they will be tough on crime in the belief that it is a sure-fire vote-winner.

And this week we have had two disturbing examples of why so many people feel the country is too soft on crime - too eager to consider the criminal ahead of the victim.

First, we had the terrifying case of Mark Hobson who was - unbelievably - sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours community work after he stabbed a man so savagely that he almost died.

Hobson, of course, used his freedom to murder four people.

Today, our front page features another travesty of justice. Clifford Church was locked up for eight years for raping a 16-year-old. He was released two years early and went on to repeatedly rape a married woman.

He was handed a life sentence at Teesside Crown Court but will be able to apply for release after serving just four years.

The chances of him being released so quickly may be slim but it is the fact that the law allows the possibility which is so shocking and so damaging to public confidence in the judicial system.

The political parties will go on declaring how tough they will be on crime.

But it is a cry we have heard for a long time and, while cases like those of Mark Hobson and Clifford Church emerge from the courts, it is hard to take it seriously.