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UK PM promises tougher prison sentences after London attack

Johnson's comments come after man who was released early from prison killed two people on London Bridge

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday he would strengthen prison sentences, vowing to boost security after an attack in the British capital by a man convicted of terrorism who was released early from prison.

With less than two weeks before Britain heads to the polls, law and order has raced to the top of the election agenda after Usman Khan, wearing a fake suicide vest and wielding knives, killed two people on Friday before being shot dead by police.

Mr Johnson's Conservatives have long championed tough police and prison measures, but opposition parties have criticised the governing party for overseeing almost a decade of cuts to public services.

Trying to distance himself from those cuts, Mr Johnson said if he won the Dec 12 election he would invest more money in the prison system and make sentences tougher.

"We are going to bring in tougher sentences for serious sexual and violent offenders and for terrorists," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show.

"I absolutely deplore the fact that this man was out on the street, I think it was absolutely repulsive and we are going to take action."

He was keen to portray his rival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, as being weak on crime, blaming the opposition party for bringing in a law that automatically released some prisoners early when it was in government.

Mr Corbyn, a veteran peace campaigner, said he believed convicted terrorists should "not necessarily" serve their full prison terms, suggesting it would depend on the nature of their sentence and also how they had behaved in prison.

"It depends on the circumstances, it depends on the sentence, but crucially it depends on what they've done in the prison," Mr Corbyn said.

Despite criticising cases where police and the army were accused of operating a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland, the Labour leader said the police had no choice but to shoot the attacker dead.

While Mr Corbyn's team struck a moderate tone, with his top legal policy adviser Shami Chakrabarti questioning whether it was the time to make "knee-jerk" policy changes, Mr Johnson again said only he could deliver Brexit, allowing Britain to move on to reforms such as to the criminal justice system.

"Obviously, I think we should be investing more in the criminal justice system," said Mr Johnson.

"What we are doing now, under this new one nation Conservative administration, (is) we are investing... It is new in our approach and it is new in the way we will tackle the issue of public services." - REUTERS

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