All posts filed under: Crime and Order

Britain’s drug problem: Compassion vs Coercion

Over the last two weeks, the main talking point in British politics has been the televised debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage concerning the issue of Europe. As much as I hate to admit it, Nigel Farage came off far better, and Clegg was largely left mumbling about how Farage either loves Putin or was a conspiracy theorist who thought Elvis was still alive. It was clear that the two men are not obvious political allies, and that they are divided on almost every issue. I say almost, because there is one area on which the two men find consensus: drug policy reform. Farage declared that the war on drugs had been lost ‘many, many years ago’, and that he supported full decriminalisation. I never thought that I would say this, but bravo Mr Farage. Completely at odds with his party, the Ukip leader has bravely gone exactly where he should be going. Ukip advertises itself as a Libertarian Party, and by supporting full decriminalisation of drugs in the UK, Farage is showing that …

The Impact of the NSA files on the Coalition’s civil liberty record

The Impact of the NSA files on the Coalition’s civil liberty record   The NSA files leaked by Edward Snowden to Glen Greenwald (former Guardian journalist) from June 2013 exposed the extent of international surveillance by, supposedly democratic governments, across the world. The leaks found Britain’s intelligence agency (GCHQ) working in conjunction with the National Security Agency (NSA) to bypass each other’s national laws for the sake of internet and communications surveillance. The leaks revealed that not only under the Coalition but under Labour, governments had been acting without any consent, collecting ‘meta data’ on mass, without even cabinet ministers’ knowledge. Many feel that the NSA and GCHQ have gone too far and that collecting hundreds of billions of international internet and telephone data items is a threat to their civil liberties. Edward Snowden, a self-proclaimed libertarian, perhaps with similar views to the conservative party on migration and welfare, did not intend to harm people’s safety; he also insists that he has not leaked information to Chinese or Russian officials. On an internet forum he …

PCCs: Powerful, Capable Crime-fighting?

PCCs: Powerful, Capable Crime-fighting?   With a 14% average turnout to the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in November 2012, is it really any wonder that news regarding PCCs has disappeared from the mainstream media and government agenda. Simply put – no one cares; a notion reflected in the poor turnout. However, despite the obvious lack of attention from media outlets the Commissioners, and their £100k pay packets, have been busy at work fulfilling their jobs of helping to guide the police and create that all important community link. Or have they? This article will aim to assess the work of the PCCs up to now, whether they have been effective in aiding communities, or if they’ve been a waste of time and resources. For many areas, the introduction of PCCs has brought many welcomed changes and benefits. It seems like the majority of the 41 elected have taken their job seriously and introduced schemes, which benefit their community. The PCC for Cheshire, for example, has launched a mobile surgery so that he can speak …

Audio: ‘ECHR chief warns UK government on rights convention’

The President of the European Court of Human Rights, Dean Spielmann, has told the British government it would be difficult for Britain to remain in the EU if it were to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights. His warning follows criticism of the court by some British judges, who say its rulings are making rather than interpreting the law. But Judge Spielmann told the Today programme’s Mike Thomson that even the highest British courts must take account of European judgements; failure to do so might require withdrawal from the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights organisation, and put at risk Britain’s EU membership.

Audio: TPims ‘a necessary evil’

BBC Radio 4 Today discussion on TPims – the Coalition replacement to control orders The usefulness of restrictions put on terror suspects by the home secretary may be “withering on the vine”, a group of MPs and peers has warned. They said the next government in 2015 must “urgently address” the role and effectiveness of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPims). David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terror legislation, discusses.

Freedoms Act 2012

Though the Protection of Freedoms Act of 2012 has been considered by the Guardian’s Cian Murphy to be broadly libertarian but lacking a coherent vision, little more than “a list of legislative pet hates, mainly introduced by New Labour”, it has displayed the government’s intent on reversing the erosion of civil liberties which had mainly occurred under the leadership of Tony Blair with legislation such as the 2006 Terrorism Act. An example is that control orders are to be replaced by TPIMs (terrorism prevention and investigation measures). These are to be more liberal than the previous control orders, with greater access to internet and phones. Moreover, people will not have to relocate as they did with control orders. However under TPIMs, people will still be subject to night-time curfews and electronic tagging.  Liberty has branded TPIMs as “control order-lites” and says that they are “just the same” as the control orders they seek to replace. The Freedom Act will also bring back the pre-charge detention limit to 14 days, from the 28 days to which …

Civil Liberties

The coalition government promised to ‘reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour government and roll back state intrusion’ to what extent has the coalition delivered on its civil liberties agenda? During New Labour’s time in power we lost many civil liberties. Blair justified such authoritarian measures as a necessity for more security; even Ed Balls now recognises that Labour got the balance between national security and civil liberties wrong. The coalition embarked on an ambitious policy of undoing these human rights infringements; however they have failed to meet their own targets and in some cases, caused even greater damages to our freedoms. The coalition’s plans for secret courts, which were recently pushed through parliament, are a heightened example of the coalitions failure to ‘reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties’, rather, they are adding to it. The Justice and Security Bill, refers to “closed material proceedings” which mean that in the trial of terrorist suspects and serious criminals, the accused would not be present, nor would their lawyers or the press and …

The Coalitions plans to monitor e-communication

Rumor has it that the Coalition wishes to enhance their abilities on monitoring modern technology. The main force behind this is the Conservatives where Theresa May proposes that the police need to have greater power in monitoring emails and need more control on social media sites. The government believes that the Draft Bill would update existing procedures for allowing access to “vital” information. They even proposed that the M15 and M16 are missing out on key information that can prevent terrorism and that internet surveillance will assist greatly. May argued that if this goes through crime can be prevented and the most terrible of criminals stopped. She insisted that pedophiles, terrorists and criminal groups would be caught and that this bill can really help society. Information from the Internet, Social network sites, and webmail and internet phone calls should be stored for 12 months in order for police to access. Theresa May went out her way to even claim that this Bill will ‘save lives’ and prevent major crimes being committed. Some believe that social …

Police and Crime Commissioners

Commissioners are elected representatives who have the role of securing efficient and effective policing of police policy area thus replacing police authorities. The police and Crime commissioner post was created in England and Wales and its numbers were elected on November the 15th 2012. There has been consensus amongst the current Conservative- Liberal democrat coalition in terms of need to reform assisting police authorities due to lack of accountability currently seen in the system. The government’s vision for policing including the introduction of police and crime commissioners was published in the Policing in the 21st century consultation. Police crime commissioners will be required to swear an oath of impartiality which will include promises such as ‘I will not seek to influence or prevent any lawful and reasonable investigation or arrest’. This will have a significant impact on accountability as if police crime and commissioner actions are seen to be unlawful in anyway, they can be held accountable to their oath. This is aimed at levelling out the Labour argument that the move to introduce the …

Coalition prison policy

The UK spends 2.8% of GDP on public safety and order. This is a rate higher than the US or any EU country. Up my 40% in real terms, prison expenditure steadily rose through the Labour years of 03-09. However 6 out of 10 prisoners return to crime on release. Re-offending is the biggest problem facing Britain’s prison system and despite prison population growth from 44,628 in 1992 to 85, 450 in 2012 and longer sentences, the problem has not gone away. With the Justice Select Committee concluding that ‘prison is a relatively ineffective way of reducing crime’, why are we still spending £40,000 a year on keeping people in prison? Rehabilitation is needed to ‘break the cycle’, in 2003 55% of prisoners reported committing offences connected to their drug taking. 71% of children in custody have been involved with, or in the care of social services before. The facts go on. The current Justice Secretary is Chris Grayling (who got the post following the 2012 reshuffle) has announced that he will go ahead with …

Privatisation of Police Services

West Midlands and Surrey police authorities have invited private security companies to bid for a wide range of services, including criminal investigations, patrolling neighbourhoods and detaining suspects. While it is being done through the prism of government cuts, outsourcing “signals a shift that would allow the private sector to provide staff that can carry out routine and repetitive tasks at cheaper rates”. At present, there are many forces that have taken the initiative to employ their own non-police staff to undertake this sort of task but have been unable to do so in sufficient numbers because of the need to employ a fixed and ever increasing number of officers within a fixed budget, but some feel the private sectors presence within the police force should be deepened, allow cuts to be made from the force and remove expensive, unnecessary teams within the force, explained in this statement: “The tender offered by West Midlands and Surrey police signals a shift which would allow the private sector to provide staff who can carry out routine and repetitive …

Ken Clarke and secret justice

The Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke recently laid down plans to extend the system of secret courts (which were initially introduced by Labour under the Terrorism Act 2000.) Clarke has proposed the introduction of “closed material procedures” within the judiciary system whereby secret evidence is withheld from the claimant and press, in other words a ‘closed court’ would occur. The policy intention was first revealed through a green paper in October 2011 and could cover a diverse range of cases where the government does not want to reveal ‘sensitive’ information to an open court. This information may be evidence obtained via foreign intelligence agencies or even government correspondence which has been deemed ‘sensitive’ The reasoning behind the green paper (possibly to be included within the Justice Bill in the next session in parliament) is partially due to the Binyam Mohamed case of 2010. In this case the accused accepted a financial settlement in return for not pursuing his case against the government that would have resulted in revealing CIA intelligence information about his time imprisoned at …

Restorative Justice ‘A victim is not a bit of paper in a court’

Radio 4 Today: There was a remarkable example of restorative justice on a programme that went out on National Prison Radio last night featuring Ray and Violet Donovan, a couple from Surrey, talking about the murder of their son by a gang of youths in the street. In the programme they talked to a group of violent criminals who had been involved in similar crimes.

Young Offenders – Government policies since 1997

Youth offending has been a growing problem across Britain with 42% of first time offenders currently being under 18. Blamed on a growing gang culture and increased availability of drugs to young people in the UK, attempts have been made by both the previous Labour government and current coalition government to tackle this by making punitive measures possible for younger children, introducing police orders and by greatly increasing community based projects involving 11-17 year olds. These efforts have been met with great controversy however as despite their efforts the number of 15-17 year olds in custody has gone up by 550% since 1997. Both governments have one thing in common when it comes to youth policy; an inclination towards preventative measures. To Labour this meant stopping young people from meeting late at night and being a nuisance on the streets. With this in mind they introduced laws to allow on the spot curfews to entire communities for those under the age of 18 as part of the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act. These curfews could …

Coalition policing policy

Home Secretaries and the Police have typically enjoyed a contentious relationship, and the current situation has proved itself to be no different, if not considerably worse. Much of the current contention stems from the effect of central Government cuts to police budgets, as part of wider moves to address the so-called fiscal deficit. Police concern has grown at both the level and nature of cuts made to local budgets, which have led to reductions the number of resources available and the number of officers in post, leading to falling morale and increased workloads. The Coalition ultimately disagrees with the Opposition about the extent and impact of police budget cuts, with the Prime Minister and Home Secretary responding that front-line officer numbers would be protected, if not increased, and that more efficient restructuring of constabularies would achieve this simultaneously with cost savings. Under the wide-ranging Winsor Review into pay and conditions for police officers and staff commissioned by the Home Secretary in 2010, the first report into short-term changes to be made to police pay has …

Ken Clarke Justice

What exactly is Cameron’s conservatism advocating? A continuation of new Labour? A bridge to Thatcherism? Or a new progressive way, one often calls ‘Cameronism’? The Conservative Party, like most UK political parties today, can be regarded as a ‘broad church’. Kenneth Clarke, the current Justice Secretary, can be described as from the left of the party, a ‘One Nation’ Tory and he has certainly made his mark on his department.

John Prescott – The Commissioner

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has announced his intentions to become one of Britain’s first elected police and crime commissioners. Prescott who will face the polls in November if selected to stand following being nominated, said he would spend the next few months consulting the public before drafting the manifesto he would use to campaign for the up to £100,000 a year job.