Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Afternoon For 18 May 2011

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Ken Clarke, Chris Huhne and David Laws.

Ken Clarke

Asked if the Prime Minister was surprised that Ken Clarke had not apologised, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said the Justice Secretary had given further interviews to clarify. He was not suggesting in any way that some rapes were not serious.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought that Ken Clarke needed to apologise, the PMS said the Prime Minister believed that rape was a very serious crime and that serious crimes deserved serious punishments. He said that we were consulting on the issue of plea bargains and would set out details of that policy in due course. The PMS went on to confirm that the Prime Minister had confidence in the Justice Secretary.

Asked if the Prime Minister accepted the comments made by the Justice Secretary were deeply offensive, the PMS said that if people had been offended by the comments, it was regrettable.

Asked if the policy has already been decided, the PMS said we were still listening to people’s views. The details of the policy would be announced in due course.

Asked why Ken Clarke considered his remarks a misinterpretation, the PMS said Ken Clarke was trying to make the point that there are different tariffs in different cases. The PMS went on to say that what those tariffs are and what sentence should be applied in a particular case is a matter for the courts.

Asked about the Prime Minister’s response to Ken Clarke’s comments, the PMS said the Prime Minister and Justice Secretary felt it was important to clarify the position.

Asked if shorter sentences were about making the administration of law cheaper, the PMS said that plea bargaining has a role in the justice system, as it does in other justice systems around the world including some that are viewed as tough such as the United States. The PMS added that what we were trying to do was to improve the criminal justice system and make sure it worked effectively to reduce the high rates of reoffending, and to improve the rates of conviction.

Chris Huhne

Asked if the Prime Minister had discussed the allegations with Chris Huhne, the PMS said that the position on Chris Huhne had not changed. He said that Chris Huhne had denied the allegations and welcomed the fact the police were investigating. The PMS confirmed that the Prime Minister had confidence in Chris Huhne.

David Laws

Asked for a response to the police investigation, the PMS said it was a matter for the police.