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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 08:41 GMT
On-the-spot fines: Can they work?
People guilty of drunk and disorderly behaviour on the streets could be given on-the-spot fines.

Tony Blair came up with the concept last year, when he suggested marching offenders to cash point machines to pay up.

At the time, Opposition MPs mocked the suggestion, while police officers dismissed it as impractical.

Civil rights campaigners said it was asking the police to monitor social behaviour.

However, pilot schemes will now be carried out by five police forces across the UK.

Can on-the-spot fines work? Will they help reduce public disorder? Or will they give the police too much power?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

On-the-spot fines are only practical for soft targets such as motorists guilty of the heinous crime of underestimating how much money to put in a parking meter.
Bryan, UK

Yes they can, but you have to make the sums of money so big that it really gets them where it hurts most. Let's forget 30/50 Fines, let's talk 500/1000 Fines, then people will stop and think!
David, U.K.


Seems like a good idea to me

Jon Cooper, UK
Seems like a good idea to me. Better than yet another slap on the wrist from our ineffective courts, and cheaper too. Hitting people in the pocket will certainly hurt.
Jon Cooper, UK

Put back the discipline that has been taken out of schools - can't politicians and do-gooders see that they have created a young society with no respect for nothing, which is why we have so much crime and violence in our streets.
J Cormack, Britain

It is an appalling idea. The police should not be put in a position to be judge and jury. Such schemes will encourage police corruption, which is one of the most important things that needs to be addressed in order for the police to recover public confidence.
Michael Peel, Netherlands


As a former PC in the 60's/70's we warned such people to behave and go home or be locked up for the night

Keith Bowen, UK
On the spot fines are going to create even more paperwork. If offenders do not pay, more time / manpower will be required to bring them to 'justice'. As a former PC in the 60's/70's we warned such people to behave and go home or be locked up for the night. They appeared in court NEXT MORNING [No bail], were dealt with by a local magistrate and learnt a salutary lesson. Nowadays we have 30% less magistrates' courts, a CPS system underfunded but obsessed with whether or not they can obtain a conviction rather than letting the courts decide. Long delays between arrest and conviction send out the wrong message. We all learn at an early age that when parents warn not to touch something because it is hot, that touching it causes an immediate painful response. You don't feel the pain months later!
Keith Bowen, UK

It certainly won't stop people going out and getting drunk, but at least it'll help fund the extra police we need on the streets to control those that can't have a drink without causing trouble.
ALB, UK


If offenders are required to give names and addresses, how are these to be verified by police officers in the absence of any national identity card system?

Peter Sykes, UK
It is easy to be tempted into advocating instant fines for some offences, but no-one should underestimate the practical issues arising. Too many offenders are only too aware of their rights and I imagine the appeals system, notwithstanding the threats of increased fines if the arrest is upheld, will soon become overloaded. If offenders are required to give names and addresses, how are these to be verified by police officers in the absence of any national identity card system? The lesson is clear: visit some strange town, far away, which you never intend setting foot in again, leave your wallet, bank cards and all other ID at home, and you can misbehave with impunity. I don't think it will work.
Peter Sykes, UK

This will only work in conjunction with mandatory ID cards. A drunken yob isn't going to voluntarily give his name and address.
David, Germany

Is this the best the collective could come up with? My name is Tony Blair - I can't pay the fine, so just post it to me! No just how do you prove I'm fibbing? Is this the opening salvo for national ID cards?
Neil , England

Oh good, now the police will roll drunks.
Gerry, Scotland


I just wonder how many people will relent easily and pay the fine on the spot and how many will simply make it hard for the police hence wasting more of their time?

David, Wales
I see no reason why fining people from fighting in the street is any less warranted that fining people for speeding. In many ways it is a far more serious crime than breaking the speed limit. I just wonder how many people will relent easily and pay the fine on the spot and how many will simply make it hard for the police hence wasting more of their time?
David, Wales

Since when do the police have the right to judge? I've met several police officers who drink and make fools of themselves on the street, as well as smoke marijuana when off duty. Also, if the police had any right to judge then we may as well throw out the entire cadre of judges and the legal system in this country. The fact is that there are also 'bent coppers' out there who will do it simply because they either don't like someone or have a quota to fill so I'd rather snap my bank card in half then let a police officer force me to withdraw money and give it to him. This plan is so open to abuse. Many people come out of pubs on a Friday night marginally drunk and the police will be able to pick on any of them, and the only evidence they'll have is the alcohol amount in their blood - which is nothing to do with fighting in the street.
Paul Charters, England

As a member of staff who will have to implement this new scheme in Essex, for the trial period under these proposals, I have some initial reservations regarding this issue. (1) What will be the sanction if these fines are not paid? (2) What will be the impact on the courts system for taking up your legal right to have the matter heard in Magistrates court? (3) Will this matter become decriminalised in certain areas just as offences dealt with by traffic wardens have? (4) How much time will be devoted to the investigation and detection of these crimes, particularly the offence relating knowingly giving a false alarm to a fire brigade? (5) A lot of these "crimes" are committed by persons who currently fall outside of the criminal system, i.e. children - what will be done to impose these fines on them, as they have no income? I hope these matters have been thought through and the government will give us some excellent guidelines on their implementation.
Shane, England

See also:

22 Mar 02 | UK
Yobs face on-the-spot fines
30 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Blair: Fine louts on the spot
21 Mar 02 | UK
Tagging comes of age
26 Jun 00 | Talking Point
Drink and violence: An English problem?
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