Thursday, 8 May 2008

Jacqui Smith - What planet are you living on?

You know, if I didn't know better, I would applaud Jacqui Smith's speech in Westminster today. However I do know better. She claims that the number of ASBOs issued has come down. There is a good reason for this - To get an ASBO you generally have to have been nicked several times for antisocial offences. However seeing as the government introduced "Fixed penalty notices" (£80 fine), you don't often get nicked for being antisocial. 32,000 notices were handed out last year, which is a massive increase on previous years:

Alan Gordon, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, says: "Let’s look at the reality of fixed penalty notices. Currently a third go unpaid and those who receive them get no criminal conviction. The Sentencing Advisory Panel suggestion that shoplifters (for example) could avoid jail no matter how many times they commit the offence is a disgrace. It sends out the wrong message at a time when the police and the public alike are sick to death of a criminal justice system which is far too lenient on those who break the law.
So if your crime is not going on record you are not likely to get an ASBO. Not only that, but if the offender agrees to be bound by an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) they will be told that they have been very naughty and get a slapped wrist (no fine). Actually I'm exaggerating, if they were to get a slapped wrist the officer involved would be sacked and had up for assault. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said:

"It is bad enough such serious crimes are effectively being punished with a glorified parking ticket. Now we learn the government won't even bother to collect the fine."
And it gets much, much worse. This is from Hansard written answers:

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Solicitor-General what the Crown Prosecution Service's policy is on bringing prosecutions against young people for breach of anti-social behaviour contracts; and if she will make a statement.

The Solicitor-General: An acceptable behaviour contract is a preliminary, non-statutory intervention designed to tackle low level antisocial behaviour. Non-compliance cannot constitute a criminal offence that the Crown Prosecution Service could prosecute. The Crown Prosecution Service does not, therefore, have a policy on prosecutions against young people for breach of such contracts.
So Jacqui, reported crime is down and so are the number of ASBOs being issued. It's not really that surprising is it? Labour tough on crime - tough on manipulating the figures relating to crime. That's why you keep telling us that reported crime going down, while we in the real world see it going up.

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