LABOUR'S campaigns co-ordinator Peter Mandelson was forced to defend Shadow Home Secretary Jack Straw's policy on crime at the Society of Labour Lawyers' AGM.

Mandelson was the guest speaker at the packed event at the Law Society, which saw the official unveiling of the society's ambitious plan to raise £100,000 from City lawyers through seminars attended by front-bench Labour spokesmen.

The MP was given a warm reception last week by about 100 lawyers who attended the event. But Mandelson did have to respond to claims from some criminal practitioners that Straw was focusing all his efforts on punishment rather than tackling the “causes of crime”.

“I would hope that as well as being tough on crime, he will also promote the values of human compassion for which Labour has always stood for,” said one Labour lawyer.

Mandelson replied that Straw was a man of “conviction and sincerity”.

He added that other members of the Shadow Cabinet, in areas such as education, were pressing ahead with policies to eradicate the underlying causes of crime.