Claire Perry riles Tory bloggers with call not to imprison girls

Written by Tony Millett on .

Marlborough MP Claire Perry has got herself embroiled in another rumpus with her suggestion that “Prison for girls is not the answer”. This time the critics are within the Conservative Party, many apparently from its ‘prison works’ wing.

In a long article on the ConservativeHome website, Mrs Perry claimed that the youth justice system was ‘built with boys in mind’ and that using ‘inappropriate and unnecessary criminal justice interventions for girls’ low level behaviour is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.’

Her views – which originate in an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System – have prompted about one hundred and seventy comments on the Tory website. As the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers move to appease the more right-wing conservatives who’re fed up with working to what they see as a LibDem agenda, Mrs Perry seems to have roused the anger of many Conservatives – and some of them women.

She relates a story told to the Group by a magistrate about a girl with ‘a chaotic family background and her mother [who] was drug and alcohol dependent’. But the magistrate had no powers to invoke a care order and had to impose a community order.

“They [magistrates] are wholly unable to use basic common sense to help these girls out of trouble…The youth justice system should not be expected to deal with child welfare issues. That is the job of councils.” Mrs Perry does not say how councils which are facing significant cuts to their budgets, should fund this care.

Mrs Perry’s mention of ‘compassion’ in the treatment of girl offenders has raised the hackles of some of those adding comments to the article: “This one is a floor crossing defector to Labour waiting to happen.” Another states: “I am afraid this is the result of the A-List” – David Cameron’s method selecting only centrally approved candidates before the last election.

Someone signing himself Jim writes: “This left wing kumbaya piece was made even more nauseating for me to read knowing it was written by a conservative party politician.” But not all Mrs Perry’s critics were male. ‘Sarah G’ wrote: “I just want to cringe reading this. Does the author actually know or understand anything about politics/crime/judiciary?”

People posting comments (who may not all, of course, be members of the Conservative Party) have questioned the logic of singling out girls for special treatment and bringing gender discrimination into the judicial system. “Wow, what an amazingly sexist article” and “This anti-male feminist Liberal twaddle is straight from the Guardian.”

Her article has even given one of her own constituents the opportunity to raise a more general gripe. Robert Eve writes: “Claire Perry, who is my MP, has been disappointing me since the election.”

Mrs Perry has recently been in some at least warm water over her ‘gaffes’ – such as the remark Marlborough News Online reported last week: “I think Kate Middleton is pregnant – and that would be good for the economy.”

This remark was picked up by two generally very Conservative-supportive newspapers, the Daily Mail and the Telegraph. Both newspapers sought views on her remarks to create stories for their websites that were critical of Mrs Perry.

Today’s Mailonline (July 29) carries a report by Brendan Carlin headlined “Tory donors tell Cameron to create ‘true blue’ Cabinet without his cronies in autumn reshuffle.” Tory ‘grass root’ members apparently have no problem with some Cameron and Osborne loyalist first elected in 2010 ‘being given ministerial red boxes.’

These, the Mail on Sunday says, include “Devizes MP Claire Perry – although her outspoken reputation, including last week speculating whether the Duchess of Cambridge was pregnant, may count against her.”

Only time will tell. But the effect was all rather spoilt when Mailonline captioned their photo of Mrs Perry as being the “Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Devizes”.