A lack of prison places means some offenders are released halfway through their sentences, Chris Grayling said.

The justice secretary was in Huddersfield yesterday with Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney for a question and answer session with Greenhead College students.

He also spoke to the Examiner about recent, high-profile cases.

After hearing from Mr McCartney about the tragic death of Meltham cycling champion John Radford, Mr Grayling said: “Clearly this is a very tragic case and my heart goes out to his family.”

John Radford
John Radford
 

Holmfirth driver Michael Gledhill had been convicted of causing serious injury by dangerous driving shortly before Mr Radford died and a possible new charge may now be considered.

“It will be a decision for the CPS and they will look at the conviction in light of the change of circumstances and it is right they do so.

“More generally, we are looking at a new way of dealing with dangerous driving matters and whether there needs to be a more serious penalty.”

The minister touched on the debate surrounding the release of footballer Ched Evans halfway through his five year sentence.

Ched Evans
Ched Evans
 

And while Mr Grayling would not be drawn further on the case, he said: “Generally speaking I am not a fan of automatic early release and we have set down rules that limit that for more serious offenders, child rape and terrorism, for example.

“I would like, going forward and where resources permit, to do what I can to limit early release but I haven’t got enough prison places to do that right now.

“At the moment we have a system of early release where you spend half in prison and the remainder on probation.

“I know the Ched Evans case is very high profile and as it’s my department I have to be very careful in passing comment. Of course, I abhor rape and agree offenders should be dealt with in the strongest possible way. Cases need to be looked at individually, but I can’t enter more into this debate because I am responsible for the system which it’s part of.”

Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney, a Huddersfield Town fan, said: “I totally agree with the rehabilitation of offenders, but I wouldn’t want Ched Evans playing for my team. Not everyone can walk back into their job after conviction.”

Justice Secretary Chris Graying visits Greenhead College, Huddersfield
Justice Secretary Chris Graying visits Greenhead College, Huddersfield
 

Mr Grayling’s visit came as it was revealed his department was spending £15m on private probation consultants.

He explained: “This is actually about how we support offenders whose sentence is less that 12 months.

“As it stands they are released with £46 and nothing else, no support or guidance, nobody looking at where they are going and, in most cases, it is easy for them to reoffend.

“This is about making sure the person that prepares them for release is the person looking out for their interests once they are released so they don’t reoffend.

“Of course, we want the justice system to be tough so victims feel justice has been done, but we also need an enlightened approach to support offenders when they leave prison.”