The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, has been attacked by Tory candidate Maria Hutchings as “soft on crime” during a live debate at Fleming Park.
“The Liberal Democrats are very soft on crime” Ms Hutchings claimed in the debate on law and order broadcast by BBC Radio Solent.
“They are talking about community sentencing for low level crime whereby young people who commit a crime go before a panel, pay a fine and say sorry. It’s not good enough.
“The voters are not fools. They want a proper deterrent. Once someone commits crime then they ought to face punishment.”
Chris Huhne called the claim “absolute nonsense.”
“If you look at areas where Liberal Democrats are in control crime has fallen further and faster than areas where they are not in control. We do the things that work to cut crime,” he said.
Statistics released by Hampshire Constabulary in January showed that crime for Eastleigh, under a Liberal Democrat council, had dropped by 15% – almost twice the national average – and that detection rates were at around 30%.
Earlier in the debate the candidates had heard a plea for tougher sentencing from voter Sarah Alexander, who had described her feelings of anger and frustration after a Southampton man had been sentenced to seven years for the manslaughter of her son.
Ms Hutchings promised the Conservatives would take a more robust line on sentencing.
“Labour and the Liberal Democrats both voted for early release of prisoners,” she said. “We are going to be very strong and very tough.”
Defending the government’s record on crime, Labour candidate Leo Barraclough said: “Crime has been falling nationally ever since Labour came to power.
“It has fallen a third since Labour came to power and violent crime has fallen 21% since 2001.”