A former judge has launched a stinging attack on the British justice system claiming the courts are home to the "weakest judges in living memory".
Retired Keith Matthew-man QC, who sat as a Crown Court judge in Nottingham and across the Midlands for 18 years, criticised what he views as lenient jail sentences, saying they are too short to act as deterrents to other criminals and are unlikely to stop people reoffending.
He also slammed the Court of Appeal, saying that any lengthy sentence meted out by a judge will inevitably be reduced on appeal.
Mr Matthewman, 70, said: "We have reached the sad stage where we have the weakest judges in living memory passing sentence, and the weakest Court of Appeal in living memory reducing already inadequate prison sentences.
"The truth, ignored by most politicians, is that people commit crime because they know that there are so few police on the streets the risk of being caught is almost nil.
"If they are caught they know that sentences will be so short that it will make no difference to their lives and any proper, lengthy sentence will almost certainly be reduced by the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal."
Mr Matthewman, who retired in 2001, referred to a recent case in Nottingham involving two youths who were given 12-month referral orders by a youth court despite admitting they played a part in a knifepoint robbery.
Speaking specifically about the 15-year-olds, who cannot be named, he said: "This case is like many in Nottingham where judges are far too soft and criminals know that.
"If I were the judge in the case, I would have given them three years custody. A tough sentence sends a signal out to others that if they commit a serious crime they really will be made to pay for it."
The former lawyer's comments come on the day Home Secretary Charles Clarke unveiled a five-year strategy for 'Protecting the Public and Reducing Re-offending' which aims to reduce the number of offenders being jailed in favour of harsher community punishments.