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Are the courts too soft on criminals when it comes to sentencing?

Proposals to allow criminals to serve only half their sentences if they plead guilty at an early stage are set to be dropped entirely.

The idea was attacked by some Tory MPs and victims’ groups - especially after it emerged it might apply to rapists.

Government sources had ruled that out, but the policy was expected to be retained for a number of lesser crimes.

A sentencing bill, to be published later, is set to include other changes including cuts to the legal aid budget.

The bill is set to include:

A review on plans to change the “serious risk” test for indeterminate public protection prison sentences, a New Labour policy which allows judges to lock up prisoners until they are no longer judged to be a serious threat to the public

Prisoners will be made to work harder, longer, and pay more compensation to their victims

Those serving time for the most serious offences which include rape and burglary will, in future, no longer be eligible for 50% remission for good behaviour

Plans to release more defendants on bail rather than hold them in custody

Cuts to the legal aid budget including measures to ensure that squatters do not qualify for publicly-funded representation to fight eviction

As recently as last month, ministers were talking about the possibility of extending the existing 33% “discount” on jail sentences in England and Wales for offenders pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity to 50%.

But the idea came in for sustained criticism from sections of the media, which intensified after Justice Secretary Ken Clarke seemed to suggest that some rape cases were more serious than others.