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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 March, 2005, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Kennedy urges new crime solution
Police tape
The Lib Dems promise 10,000 more police
Crime-fighting under Labour has seen a mass of new laws but few solutions said Charles Kennedy as he argued for more high visibility policing.

Launching the Lib Dem crime manifesto, he argued long-term answers were needed to stop people's lives being blighted by nuisance behaviour.

And he renewed his party's pledge to recruit 10,000 more police officers and 20,000 community support officers.

Both the Tories and Labour are also promising more police.

Soundbites first?


Ahead of the mini-manifesto launch, the Lib Dem leader denied his party was soft on crime, arguing serious crimes warranted prison.

But he added: "Prison should not be just about punishment. It should also be about rehabilitation."

He said 60% of people imprisoned went on to re-offend once released, something that "should be setting alarm bells ringing".

The Conservatives promise an extra 40,000 officers, freed from red tape, as well as more drug rehabilitation places and 20,000 new prison places.

Tough on rhetoric?

The government says police numbers have already risen 13,000 under Labour and it wants to increase the numbers of community support officers from 5,000 to 24,000.

Labour also plans tougher laws on knife sales, random drug testing for prolific criminals and town centre bans for drunken violence.

On Tuesday, Mr Kennedy accused ministers of putting soundbites ahead of real action.

"Since Labour took power, we have had 30 government bills creating about 1,000 new crimes, hundreds of initiatives and thousands of targets," he said.

"The reality is that this government has been tough on rhetoric, heavy on legislation but weak on real solutions."

Age of the paperclip?

He added that it was no good having more police if they just ended up "form filling".

Mr Kennedy said his party wanted to see officers empowered by cutting edge technology, including voice recognition equipment to speed up paperwork.

That was a message echoed by home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten.

He said: "While the rest of us are in the age of the internet, the police are stuck in the age of the paperclip. More time is spent in the station filling in forms than out on the streets cutting crime."

Prison reform

Mr Kennedy said his party had only backed anti-social behaviour orders as a stop-gap measure. He argued they shunted problems from one area to another.

He wants the kind of acceptable behaviour contracts used by some Lib Dem councils such as Islington, which he says can prevent nuisance in the first place.

The mini-manifesto includes plans to introduce a "tough working day" for prisoners so they learn skills while in jail.

Non-violent offenders would also have to do community work as an alternative to jail, under the proposals.

The package does not contain new proposals but is part of Mr Kennedy's stress on "tough liberalism" - which is based on an argument that boosting rehabilitation is not soft on crime.

"Prison must work better," he said.

But critics say some of their ideas, such as sending young car crime offenders on driving weekends, rewards bad behaviour.

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