London: The Prison and Justice system of England can cope with the record number of convictions of rioters, Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt has said.
     
Since the August 6-10 riots in London and other English cities, the prison population has gone up by more than 1,000.
     
Last Friday, the number of inmates hit a record of almost 87,000, largely driven by the riots. As of August 23, there were 797 suspects on remand.
     
With some 1,400 people appearing in courts since the riots, prisons chiefs have devised contingency plans in case they run out of space.
     
Blunt said the country's Justice system could cope in the short-term and there would be no long-term effect on the prison population in England and Wales.
     
"We are completely confident that the prison system and justice system are going to be able to cope with what the police are producing for us," Blunt was quoted as saying by the BBC.
     
"This is an exceptional event. There will be a one-off increase in prison numbers as people serve their sentences.
     
"What we have to do is make sure there are prison places for those sent to prison by the courts and we will continue to do that regardless of how many people are sent to prison," he said at the launch of a tougher community service regime.
      
Blunt believed harsher terms for rioters were justified.
      
But civil liberties groups have warned that the court system will be clogged with appeals by people convicted of riot-related offences seeking to overturn lengthy jail terms.
      
During the riots in London and other cities like Manchester and Birmingham, shops were looted, buildings burned and five people died. The violence broke out in Tottenham on August 6 amid community anger over a fatal police shooting of a 29-year-old man.
      
Blunt's comments came as he promoted the Ministry of Justice's previously-announced plan to make more use of community-based sentences for some offenders.
      
Blunt said that from next year, unemployed offenders doing unpaid work - known as community payback - will be made to do it full-time rather than spread out over many months.
     
Under the current arrangements, offenders can work as little as six hours a week on manual labour projects such as cleaning up graffiti.
      
The scheme aims to force offenders to work a minimum of 28 hours over four days with the fifth spent looking for a job. Ministers say the punishment will also be delivered more immediately after sentence.
      
Some 100,000 offenders are given community sentences every year in the country and the public can nominate online the jobs they want doing.

(Agencies)