For some time now I've worried about the rights culture which has grown  in our country.  One issue is when foreign nationals commit crimes, but  avoid deportation to their country of origin by claiming a 'right to  family life'.

I think that visitors forfeit the privilege of remaining in our country when they threaten us or commit serious crimes, and that we are entiled to remove them.

So I welcome the announcement at this week's Conservative Party Conference that we will prevent this abuse of human rights laws. 

Naturally, this commanded a lot of attention.  But some less-publicised debates were also significant.

On the conference platform, I interviewed a former offender, Vince, and a colleague who has formed a charity Only Connect ( to help prevent crime.

Vince was a criminal for 20 years.  Now he goes into schools to talk to young people about the mistakes he made and the choices they face.

When the audience heard what Vince now does, that he's working and doing a degree, and that this year he got married, they applauded.

Vince was clear that he had done wrong and should have gone to prison.  He also said that until he met Only Connect he saw no route away from the life of crime.

Offenders who commit crimes should pay the price.  But we also need to stop them offending again.  Punishment and rehabilitation are not alternatives.  We need both.

Three quarters of those brought before the courts following the riots had a previous conviction or caution, with an average of 15 offences each.  A third of these had served a prison sentence.

Habitual criminals churn through the courts, undeterred and unrepentent.  The police work hard to catch them, but the same faces reappear.

We need to break this cycle.  I've recently set out new ideas for 'neighbourhood justice', involving magistrates sitting in village halls and community centres, with offenders being required to pay back to victims and the local community.

Justice should be swift and sure.  We need to be tough where the system has been weak.  But we also need new approaches which succeed earlier, helping to prevent today's miscreants from becoming tomorrow's hardened criminals.

Christopher N Howarth