In the interview, Mr Strang supported the concept of "restorative justice", which would make more minor offenders face up to the consequences of their actions through community-based sentences rather than brief spells behind bars.

He added: "The evidence is that sending people to prison for a short time does little to reduce offending in the long-term. In fact there is an argument that it is likely to lead to increased offending, partly because the prison service says there is little it can do with someone who is only in for a few weeks."

Highlighting the role of alcohol in offending, he added: "On a daily basis in terms of the calls we receive, alcohol is by far the greatest cause of incidence of crime: crime of violence, drink-driving, disorder. If you take a more thoughtful approach alcohol causes a lot of problems."

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