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EDITIONS
Breakfast Monday, 12 August, 2002, 04:50 GMT 05:50 UK
Will on the spot fines stop the yobs?
Police
Join the debate: e-mail us from this page
From this morning, police will be able to issue on the spot fines in three experimental areas.

The new police powers are meant to work like parking tickets. They're part of a crack down on anti-social behaviour, such as being drunk and disorderly.

Will on the spot fines work? Or do they put too much power in the hands of the bobbies on the beat?

  • Click here to e-mail us with your views

  • We talked to the police, civil liberties groups and a restaurateur, who's at the sharp end of public order offences.

    "The sort of offences we'll be looking at range from being drunk and disorderly to wasting police time and abusive or threatening behaviour," Chief Inspector James Andranov told Breakfast.
    Dalawar Choudhury, restaurateur
    Chaudhury: sees regular misbehaviour

    The police in the West Midlands, where one of the pilot schemes will run, are hoping that fixed fines will be used for offences at the more minor end of the scale.

    They envisage arresting suspects who are causing trouble and issuing fixed penalty fines when they're in custody, to avoid the paperwork involved in taking minor offenders to court.

    But the proposals are causing alarm among civil liberties campaigners.

    "I think it's a real concern to give the police the ability to be judge and jury in these cases, " Mark Littlewood from Liberty told us.

    He predicts particular problems with ethnic minority offenders.
    Mark Littlewood, Liberty
    Littlewood: police may become judge and jury

    But, the new plans were welcomed by restaurateur Dalawar Chaudhury: "When we have problems, the police come and discipline someone and send them away.

    "Then they repeat the offence time after time..This is probably the only deterrent, if it hurts in their pocket."


    Details

    Officers will be able to issue 40 and 80 fixed penalties for offences such as using threatening behaviour, being drunk and disorderly and making hoax 999 calls.

    The scheme will apply in the West Midlands, Essex and Croydon in south London. North Wales will begin the pilot in September

    If the one-year trials are successful, it could be rolled out nationwide.

    It is part of the government's drive to get tough on crime but critics say it will be impossible to use effectively.

    Clogged courts

    Offenders will be able to pay the fines by post. If they deny the charge, they can elect to go to court for a full trial.

    The move is designed to stop police cells and the courts being clogged with petty offenders who receive only a "slap on the wrist" from magistrates.


    It's hardly likely to produce a compliant response

    Simon Hughes
    Liberal Democrats

    However there are concerns among some rank-and-file officers that fining people on the street will lead to confrontation.

    They are also worried that offenders without identification will simply give a false name and address.

    Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said the fines would not work in the "real world".

    "There's all the difference in the world between having a ticket for parking on a yellow line - objective, no argument - and going up to somebody on a Friday night and saying 'You are causing nuisance behaviour'.

    "That's very subjective and hardly likely to produce a compliant response."

    Hoax calls

    The kinds of offences which will be covered with a 40 fine are:

    • being drunk and disorderly or drunk in the highway
    • throwing stones at trains, trespassing on a railway
    • throwing fireworks
    • drinking in a restricted area
    • wilful obstruction of the highway
    • buying alcohol for children

    Fines of 80 will apply to offenders who use threatening behaviour or words causing alarm or distress, waste police time or make hoax emergency calls.


    It will provide police with an additional tool to tackle nuisance crimes

    Home Office

    The Association of Chief Police Officers and the pilot police forces have strongly backed the plan, according to the Home Office.

    A Home Office spokeswoman said the fines would give police "greater flexibility" to tackle low-level crime "swiftly and simply".

    "It will provide police with an additional tool to tackle nuisance crimes and intimidating behaviour which blights the lives of so many people," she said.

    "It will reduce the amount of police time spent on paperwork and courts' time in dealing with prosecutions and yet provides a punishment for the offender."

    TELL US WHAT YOU THINK To have your say, e-mail us at breakfasttv@bbc.co.uk

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    12 Aug 02 | UK
    28 Jun 00 | Politics
    12 Jul 02 | Politics
    03 Jul 00 | Politics
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