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“This is part of the wider problem that the Home Office has an anti-prison bias. But while they regard prison as uncivilized, they don’t seem to care whether the alternatives work or not.”
As Leader of the Opposition, Tony Blair (“tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”) succeeded in watering down the previous Conservative government’s proposals in the Crime Sentencing Act 1997 for a mandatory three-year prison sentence for home burglary (one of the most dangerous crimes, and one often extremely traumatic for the victims), so that, in the seven years after the act came into force, fewer than 15 of the hundreds convicted of burglary for a third time had been given the allegedly mandatory three-year sentence.
Burglars and muggers should be spared prison more often, courts have been told, and very recently sentencing authorities ordered a further “raising of the custody threshold” to keep out of prison more offenders who would in the past have been given up to a year in jail.
The Home Office said the latest guidance had been circulated nationally because there had been regional anomalies in the way offenders were dealt with and these needed to be removed. A spokesman said:
“Cautioning in individual cases is an operational matter for the police and Crown Prosecution Service. The new circular firstly provides up to date guidance on the use of cautions to encourage consistency across the country.
“Secondly, with the introduction of statutory charging, the guidance needed to clarify what the effect would be on police responsibility for cautions. Finally the guidance was introduced to outline the practical process of administering a caution.”
Dr. Green said: “The Home Office is missing its target to achieve a set number of offenders brought to justice. But it seems they regard a caution as an offender brought to justice. This is a nod and a wink to police forces — deal with your cases by cautions and we will hit our target.”
IN MARCH 2005, THE CHIEF Constable of Nottinghamshire, Steve Green, said his force was overwhelmed with violent crime, and “could no longer cope.” He said police were smothered in bureaucratic duties. Gun-related crimes had hit record levels across England and Wales in the preceding year, rising by about 11 percent in a single year (sexual offenses rose by 18 percent), to more than double their rate when Labor took power. At that time the Home Office had promised a renewed drive against crime in various areas. Home Office Minister Caroline Flint admitted that having a gun pointed at one was a “frightening experience.” However, she continued, in many cases the triggers were not actually pulled.
A study by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research in June 2005 found that violence from teenage thugs had a major impact on the lives of one in five of the population. According to a 2005 survey of 200,000 National Health Service workers, one third of ambulance staff and more than one half of paramedics had been subjected to violence in the course of their work. Civitas said previously that the rise in British crime-rates was “so spectacular” that it was “difficult to comprehend.” Britain was “a seriously crime-infected and disintegrating society.” Burglaries had increased from 72,000 in 1964 to 402,000 in 2004. Robberies of personal property had risen from 3,000 in 1964 to 101,000 in 2003-04. The report added: “England, from being a society remarkably free of crime and disorder, especially from the middle of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century, by the late 1990’s had a worse record than France, Germany or the United States.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber recently claimed the London crime rate was driving away theatre goers and killing the West End. Actress Joan Collins, who had lived for many years in Belgravia, announced she was moving to New York, claiming that even in this expensive and fashionable district she felt continually threatened. Miss Collins said:
“As a young girl in my teens and 20s I could stroll round the streets of London by night if I chose and know that I’d be safe. I’m sad to have to say it, but that is no longer the case. I don’t even feel comfortable walking the few hundred yards from my flat round the corner to my hairdresser’s.
“Groups of muggers are frequently attacking people in the area where I live in London. And the police don’t appear to be able to do anything about it. The gangs just cock a snook at them.”
At any rate, the new British policy should provide criminologists with an interesting control-group experiment to compare against New York zero-tolerance, though it may not be too hard to predict the results in advance.
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In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
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