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Monday, 24 July, 2000, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
How can we win the fight against crime?
The latest figures show a big rise in violent crime in England and Wales, with a jump of nearly 16% in attacks on people.

Just what the figures mean is controversial - senior police chiefs say the way they are gathered tends to paint a bleaker picture than the reality.

But the government accepts more needs to be done and says excessive drinking is to blame for many of the problems in our towns and cities.

So is the answer to get more policemen on the beat? Or do we need a more radical strategy? How can we win the fight against crime?

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

Your reaction

It seems to me that people are forgetting about white-collar crime

Andrew, England
It seems to me that people are forgetting about white-collar crime. Why should the rich get away with such things as serious fraud and tax evasion when lesser offences are more likely to be prosecuted?
Andrew, England

I don't think owning guns is the answer - it makes things messy. However, why not let victims sue the police or even the Government for negligence when criminals are let off lightly? After all, we pay taxes and they provide a service. Let's make them stick to the small print.
Thierry, Netherlands

The problem with finding the right solution to fighting and dealing with crime is that every criminal is different. What would be effective and appropriate for one criminal, would not work with another.
Tim Langford, UK

Is it being too simplistic to suggest actually punishing criminals, rather than sending them on safari?
Richard Shoreham, UK

It's funny how over the last decade and a half, as more and more US states legalised concealed carry gun permits, those states have seen a large drop in violent crime. (Over 50% in some states.) Yet, in the same time period England's crime rate has sky-rocketed while they have criminalised gun-ownership. (Of course now only the criminals have guns.)
Troy Svihl, USA

I think that people in general especially children should learn self-defence and the principles of the victimisation.
Moema Galvão, Brazil

Begin by doing away with political correctness and return to the traditional values. Then start at the bottom and don't tolerate the small crimes. Then return the right of self defence to the public and return the right to own tools of self defence.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

We can stop persecuting those who shoot and maim burgling teenage yobs for a start. Then legalise drugs. Think of all that money that would be available to spend on catching real criminals.
Si, England

I know that it's popular in this day and age to point the finger of blame for the increase in the crime rate at "lenient" sentencing and not enough police officers. However, I believe that the only true deterrent for criminals is to increase the likelihood that they will be caught, tried, and punished.
Alyson, Canada

I think that, in the modern society, the iron fist is not the solution to the crime problems, therefore the government should look for the roots, with the help of psychologists, and find out social solutions, because the main objective of justice is to prevent criminals not to condemn them.
Nasif Rafiq, Palestine

The main reason Britain is now such a violent country is that people are no longer allowed to defend themselves. Fascist-type gun laws and the "Offensive" Weapons Act leave the peaceful majority unarmed and at the mercy of the criminals, who won't obey the law anyway.
Stuart Heal, UK

I don't care what causes a person to become a violent criminal. I want myself and my family to be protected

Nigel Lansgrove, UK
To "Tracy" from the UK. I don't care what causes a person to become a violent criminal. I want myself and my family to be protected such that we won't be the next victim. Rather than hand-wringing and saying how unfair it all is, I prefer to take direct action to protect the law-abiding population.
Nigel Lansgrove, UK

I see that the US contributions to this debate have advocated guns. This is plain stupid. The more guns there are in the country the more chance there is of them being used inappropriately. We simply need sentencing that means what it says. It may be a cliché now but life should mean life.
A Duncan, UK

We are a society that is giving in to the 'nambi-pampi liberals' who think criminals have rights! I don't blame the Americans for putting us down because of our relaxed laws! What kind of a country are we when people like Tony Martin get life sentences for defending their own lives. I don't want to bring back the death penalty, nor do I want Britain to be a trigger-happy society like America, but we should stop giving in to those who believe in 'blaming society not the individual'!
Simon, Wales

Trying to understand how people become criminals in the first place and therefore preventing the crime from occurring would surely benefit everyone

C Wright, UK
In answer to the point that fear is the only way to teach people the difference between right and wrong, and the implication that parents need to smack their children more. I was raised as part of a one-parent family; my mother taught me that violence was not expectable without using violence or threats, but by demonstrating love and tolerance towards others. This along with trying to understand how people become criminals in the first place and therefore preventing the crime from occurring would surely benefit everyone.
C Wright, UK

Let us apply the cat of nine tails to any young person convicted of a violent offence. Forget the PC's or the socialists. Take it from an old one who knows. Violence cures violence. Young people are the only ones who will learn by this method. Let's do our duty by them, and prevent further violence now!
Harry Wentworth, England

If things carry on this way it may be time to emigrate.

Colin Wright, UK
So just to sum up, the general feeling in this forum seems to be that, the answer to creating a less violent society is as follows. Bring back executions, heavily arm the general populace, adopt policies of intolerance, become a police state, bring back conscription, and reclassify 'Liberal' as a swear word. Even if this did create a less violent society (and I can't see how it would), it would not be one in which I would want to live or raise children. This does however seem to be the direction being taken by both the government and opposition. If things carry on this way it may be time to emigrate.
Colin Wright, UK

The criminal is not born as a criminal - the environment and circumstances of his life makes him so. So when we say how to fight the crime, we have to fight what makes a normal person a criminal, we have to teach our children what's love and what's feeling, and we have to listen to their words, as children are the real wise people.
Dr Said, Egypt

Society sends people down for 4 reasons (1) to punish (2) to deter (3) to offer an opportunity for reform and (4) to keep dangerous people away. When grievously wicked things are done, the only solution is quick and certain death - within 15 minutes of the final court outing. Far better to spend the money spent on prisoners on handicapped children. Frankly they're worth it. Murderers and rapists aren't.
Pat, Europe

I'm astounded at the amount of reactionary right-wing comments posted on this page. Some of them are bordering on fascism. Why is it that people want to 'string up' criminals and yet show no interest in understanding the underlying causes of crime. It has been proven that zero tolerance leads to a deviancy amplification spiral. Look deeper than bar room politicking.
Tracy, UK

Zero tolerance is just a buzzword

Danny, UK
Zero tolerance is just a buzzword, in reality these problems are not so easy to solve. God forbid any of the extreme right views expressed here ever come to being. I for one would leave this country if we reverted to medieval forms of punishment.
Danny, UK

I agree something has to be done about the crime rate in the UK but to be honest I am sick and tired of the Americans putting us down because of our gun laws. Let's face it, do we really want to have the problems that America has when it comes to gun crimes? I don't think so!
Emma, UK

Neil Pearce's comment on the police only targeting speeders is totally incorrect. All police forces have traffic departments to target these offenders in an effort to reduce death and serious injury. Traffic departments are quite small in comparison to overall police numbers. The majority of patrol police officers do not have time to target road traffic offences because they are dealing with crime and disorder! The problem is a lack of funding coupled with a society that begets these offenders.
Dave Quinan, UK

Today we live in a no blame society. We have to teach social skills in school, as pupils have no concept of living within society. The only really effective way I have seen parents control children and societies control crime is through fear. Fear of punishment. Fear is a healthy reminder of the rules of Cause and Effect, which appears to be lacking these days. Whether it is a smack or time in prison those doing wrong should fear the reprisal.

As a serving prison officer I get to see all types of criminal. What strikes me is the lack of concern about being caught.
S. Nelson, England

Publish the names and photos of the people who commit the offence

Frans, Singapore
As a former colony of the UK, Singapore is doing much better in their fight against crime. One way which really works (at least I think so), is to publish the names and photos of the people who commit the offence.
Frans, Singapore

The primary cause is a lack of deterrent. The judicial system is under pressure not to impose custodial sentences and many a persistent criminal either ends up serving no sentence or one which is far less than fitting. A jail term is a punishment and during the time they are inside, it's one more criminal off the street.
Stewart McClements, Scotland

Someone mentioned how safe Switzerland is. A great many Swiss citizens are issued with guns in the interest of national defence. A side effect is that it puts criminals off getting violent with these people. Of course no politician would ever dare link self defence with low crime rates, they would hate a population that can say no and mean it!
Donald Smith, UK

The Hertfordshire police force has just spent £34,400 printing and distributing "Herts Beat" to every household in the county. When asked why this wouldn't have been better spent employing a policeman, my representative on the police authority said that such publicity (largely full of self-serving propaganda) was regarded in the force as an example of best practice. More spin doctoring? And yet when antisocial behaviour rises, the police always say they have too few resources. I can now see this as transparent nonsense.
Henry, Hertfordshire

All this talk of dangerous criminals "roaming the streets," yet a substantial part of the "rising tide" of violent crime is that which occurs in the home, committed by persons known to the victim. If you are really serious about tackling violent crime, then stop this reactionary bleating and start asking why it is that the family often poses the greatest risk to an individual's safety. The solution is not as simple as some people might like to think.
Jonathan, London, England

I would suggest a "3 Strikes and You're Out" policy like California. England has to draw the line somewhere.
Brian Kelly, Netherlands (formerly USA)

The solution is to allow law-abiding citizens to arm themselves

Leg, USA

The comments have missed the mark so far. The solution is to allow law-abiding citizens to arm themselves.
Leg, USA

Since the Labour Government banned guns in the UK, the violent crime rate has gone up. Good job,Tony Blair! If you're anti-gun, you're pro-crime.
Paul, USA

Zero tolerance works. Rudy Giuliani has shown the world how he changed New York into a safe and prosperous city. Weak government in a godless nation has produced our troubles.
D Wilson, UK/ Brazil

200 years ago you used to remove undesirables to far-flung places like Tasmania for such heinous crimes as stealing a loaf of bread. As the Earth is now much smaller perhaps a new penal colony on the Moon is the answer.
Mark Schuller, Australia

We are far too lenient with criminals. Bring back the death penalty and the birch. Public hangings would set an example to all.
Adrian Weller, Scotland

We seem to have bred a culture in this country of no punishment whatsoever for offenders. It starts at school with teachers hamstrung by the PC and child protection mob preventing any sort of punishment, and continues all the way up to adulthood where it seems to be socially acceptable to go out, get drunk and have a fight or cause criminal damage.
Mark Lisle, Germany

Society today has a lot to answer for. Lets all change it by telling the truth even when it hurts, you will be better respected for it afterwards

Rose Lane, England

Society today has a lot to answer for. Lets all change it by telling the truth even when it hurts, you will be better respected for it afterwards. I add that I am not a religious person and do not think you have to be religious to have the same thoughts as me.
Rose Lane, England

I believe the same laws as Holland should be adopted, moving police away from petty cannabis offences hence allowing more enforcement on serious crimes.
Matt, England

Introduce ID cards like the rest of Europe and more than that, encode the holders DNA structure on the card. That may make people think twice before they feel they can evade police prosecution.
Derek Jessup, UK

New Labour has created a Britain where the burglar, the mugger, and the rapist are guaranteed safety at work.

Mike Holmes, Scotland

New Labour showed its instincts immediately after election by banning handguns. Following the same soft line, they've supported the life sentence for Tony Martin, jailed for defending himself and his home. Unsurprisingly the result is that crime rates in the UK are rising. In contrast, 33 states in the US have re-legalised handguns for law-abiding citizens, and have seen crime rates plummet as a result. Rather than do the same, New Labour has created a Britain where the burglar, the mugger, and the rapist are guaranteed safety at work.
Mike Holmes, Scotland

This issue should be looked at from a local point of view, policing should be specific to the communities needs. The smaller the community the more targetable the police response should be, a local telephone number to report local issues, not a national broad-brush approach.
Adrian Graham, UK

I like to consider myself to be a normal guy but if some of the changes suggested here are brought into power I will become a criminal. Not everyone wants to live in your right wing nanny state. I am an adult and I want to make my own choices. The eye for an eye mentality on display here is medieval and bordering on fascist.
Oliver Richardson, UK

You have to look at the real root of the problem, which is the death of society

Graham Parry, UK

You cannot simply blame alcohol, as the Government appears to be doing. You have to look at the real root of the problem, which is the death of society. More family friendly policies are required to keep the family together. For example, the abolition of the Married Person's Tax Allowance was not a good signal to young people.
Graham Parry, UK

Apart from the extreme views (i.e. death sentence) I agree with most suggestions. I am working in Italy at the moment and the Carabinieri are everywhere. Okay, they are in cars but it doesn't take much to find and stop someone. We must crack down on the prisons, they should be clean, not degrading but should have no television etc, no perks at all. We should also sort out the benefits system to make people work for a living.
Gareth, UK

Once again when there is a debate about crime, someone says that the police should not spend so much of their time investigating "trivial" speeding offences. Speeding is not "trivial". If motorist speeding regulations were not enforced, the police would be spending more time investigating crashes and injuries so they would have even less time to investigate "real" street crimes.
Mark K, UK

Zero tolerance, proper sentencing, putting an end to cosy prisons, and making criminals actually repay their debt to society. It's time someone silenced the mindless few who campaign for prisoners' rights, and force people to acknowledge that it is the criminal's fault not society.
Chris, England

Should we not also be debating the 19% rise in forgery and fraud, the largest rise in any category in these statistics? It seems we are becoming a more dishonest as well as a more violent society.
Chris Cradock, UK

The latest I have heard, is that the old police station will now become a wine bar

Rob Holman, England

A great example in the fight against crime is the closure of our local police station in Chislehurst. Apparently, this was due to lack of funds. However, the police have insisted that the level of service and response times will remain the same. Rubbish! There has been a massive increase in graffiti, the off-licenses have been held up at gunpoint, the phone boxes are smashed every Friday night and so on. The latest I have heard, is that the old police station will now become a wine bar. This will, no doubt increase the amount of alcohol-related crime even more.
Rob Holman, England

Thatcher's children are coming home to roost - don't let the next generation down in the same way.
Rob, England

The answer is John Birt. Anyone who commits a crime should be made to read the collected thoughts of the ex-BBC Director General without recourse to a dictionary or a thesaurus. Should keep the hooligans quiet for a while.
Mac, Scotland

Make the breweries responsible for the actions of their clients. Why should they be allowed to push over-strength lagers and alcopops to idiots all night simply to close the doors behind them and count their profits while the rest of society suffers the consequences? Less pubs and bars run by twenty-year-old managers and more owner-landlords would help.
Colin, UK

As a Special Constable I get to work alongside the regular officers on the street

Simon, England

As a Special Constable I get to work alongside the regular officers on the street. I have found that the special departments such as Traffic and Public Order groups have very little work in comparison with those police officers who patrol "sections" or beats. There just seems to be so many police officers doing very little when the section officers have so much work to do!
Simon, England

The key to the regeneration of this country and the reduction of crime is a return to stricter parental discipline. Parents MUST take their responsibilities more seriously - equally applicable to one or two parent families - this is the start of the chain. The benefits are better behaviour at home and at school, leading to improved educational results, better chances of employment, hence less temptation to get into crime and vandalism.
Jenny F, UK

Today we read of the horror in Sussex, crime figures going up, not enough police, ineffective Government action, and yet the British spend $35 million on an embassy in Berlin when the money would better used to fight crime. It makes one so proud to have a British passport
Riick, Cymru/ Wales/ Malaysia

There's little point providing more police officers unless they are given the legal powers to arrest and charge criminals, and the existing legal framework backs them up. What's the point of rounding up crooks if the courts slap their wrists and let them go again?
Pete Marsh, UK

If there are pubs that cause problems, shut them down and make the landlord reapply for the licence

Dominic, UK

Zero tolerance is the solution. If there are pubs that cause problems, shut them down and make the landlord reapply for the licence. Criminals should be made to work hard to repay their debt to society. Any unsocial behaviour should not be tolerated - name and shame. It is time for a major re-think of the criminal system and this should be done at the same time as a major re-think of the welfare system.
Dominic, UK

Jack Straw says that these offenders have too much money and hence get drunk more often. If this is the case the answer is straightforward. Increase the cost of alcohol to a prohibitive price (as for petrol) to see if this will remove the drunken yobs from the street. It is all very well using slogans but unless New Labour get tough on the cause of this crime, i.e. alcohol and price it out of the market, then all the words are just so much hot air.

I believe that crime is the result of poor education and social problems. In order to tackle this problem, we need to be aware of the background of violence. Fighting poverty, access to education and employment is the direction which should be taken. Violence is the expression of a social malaise.
Emma C. France

We are told the police are under-resourced, yet certain forces have sufficient manpower to prosecute motorists for eating a Kit-Kat or drinking from a bottle of water. Since the police are supposed to be the servants of the people, could we not have some say in the prioritisation of their work and funding? Of course convictions for violent crime require proof of guilt obtained through investigative policing, whilst tickets for motoring offences can be doled out from the comfort of their Lotus Esprit.
Dave Crack, England

The answer is simple - achieving it is difficult. The answer to the current lawlessness and yobbish behaviour is to fundamentally re-moralise Britain. This means instilling respect, decency, discipline and responsibility in our youngsters. How to achieve it? An end to the tolerance of teenage pregnancy, marital breakdown and equal treatment for the unmarried. I am afraid you have to penalise the feckless and immoral and the traditional family is the key. Have any of our politicians got the guts to speak out on this?
Richard, England

As history has taught us, prohibition is not the answer

Phil Jones, England

The Government is quick to blame alcohol for all of society's ills. While I agree that excessive drinking does make some people violent and aggressive, it is not fair to punish those who enjoy social drinking and can handle their alcohol. As history has taught us, prohibition is not the answer. If anything, the Government should rush through a late licensing bill that will let people leave pubs and clubs when they wish to. As it is, the most dangerous time to be out and about is just after 11pm when the pubs close. Not staggering closing times means thousands of intoxicated people converging on the streets waiting for busses, taxis and fast food. It's no wonder that I see fights breaking out every Friday and Saturday night.
Phil Jones, England

Personally, I'm not an advocate of "zero tolerance" policies, they have no place in a civilised society. Just because some criminals behave in an uncivilised manner does not excuse the state, authorities or the rest of us from behaving responsibly. I do believe that violence against a person, or threatening violence with a weapon should be specifically targeted for stiffer sentences. It's these crimes that intimidate people and "scare them off the streets". Behaving boisterously and drunkenly in public IS acceptable to most of us, but violence and muggings are not. That should be the "message" and the policy.
Johnny, Ireland

I think it's disgusting that young people do this kind of thing. If they brought back conscription these kids wouldn't be beating up old people. My friend across the road was attacked and they took a bag of carrots she had just bought because she didn't have any money. When I was young there wasn't crime like this, you could walk into people's houses to say hello and they didn't mind. People pulled together during the War. If they brought back conscription it would give these kids some backbone and training in firearms use. It isn't safe to walk the streets anymore.
Wally Hibbs, England

Crime is a result of upbringing and social climate not a "criminal mindset". To prevent crime, inequality has to be reduced and the law reformed so that it reflects the opinion of the majority and not of the elite.
John, England

Speak to any doctor or nurse, any judge or magistrate and they will all tell you that alcohol is the cause of the problem

AK, England

Speak to any doctor or nurse, any judge or magistrate and they will all tell you that alcohol is the cause of the problem. Is prohibition too high a price to pay? Is it really that far-fetched? Is it too high a price to pay in order to spare countless battered families and broken homes? I see this as the single most important electoral issue. For the first time the issue of crime will be the deciding factor for my next vote.
AK, England

Ask the Swiss! Their country seems a lot safer and friendlier than anywhere else I have encountered so far. If it is due to better policing, education, legislation etc, then maybe we stand a chance.
Peter, Switzerland (from UK)

This morning I came across colleagues discussing speed cameras and how to evade them. When I suggested sticking to the limit they just laughed. Their attitude was simple. Parliament passes stupid laws that treat people as potential criminals and then tries to enforce them using police-state methods. If "they" don't respect us, why should we respect "them"? And, frankly, I couldn't argue against that - because it's true.
Alex Swanson, UK

More policemen on the beat - that would be a good start. What we really need, though, is a justice system that is geared towards dealing with criminals, not pandering to their "needs" and their "rights". I, for one, am fed up with the persistent bleating of those who style themselves as defenders of civil liberties. Criminals should have ALL their liberties revoked. What sort of country, what sort of government, allows a system to develop where the criminal has more rights than their victim?
Martin, UK

You also need to tackle the root causes of most crime - poverty, urban depravation and social exclusion

Neil, UK

The easy answer is more police and stricter laws/ harsher punishments. However, you also need to tackle the root causes of most crime - poverty, urban depravation and social exclusion or those millions spent on more police will be wasted.
Neil, UK

As a student of Law and Criminology, I find it increasingly worrying that little is being done to reform a system, that still allows the worst kind of criminals to be sent away to a comfy cell with a TV and qualify for a degree. These kind of people deserve to be put in a dark place and forgotten about. They are not normal people, and will never change. It is about time that our criminal justice system recognised this!
Julie Marsh, England

I've heard many stories of prisons offering better facilities than a holiday camp. One person I know was sent to Lewis jail for a couple of years. He likes it so much that when he gets out he re-offends just so that he can go back inside, meet his friends and watch Sky TV. What sort of deterrent is this? Prisoners should be made to work in harsh conditions and repay their debt to society.
Ian, UK

I was on holiday 3 years ago in London with two friends. We had stopped for a bite to eat and, as it was a nice day, we decided to sit outside. After a while, both my friends went inside - one to get some beer, the other to use the toilet. While they were away, 2 men approached me and tried to rob my bag. One of them grabbed the bag and ran off but I managed to keep hold of the second man. While I was holding him, he was trying and sometimes succeeding in hitting and kicking me. A minute or so later, one of my friends came out, saw what was happening, and jumped on the man as well. When my third friend came out, we started to beat the thief. After 5-10 minutes, the police arrived and arrested us for assault. This man had attacked and robbed me yet I was to blame for lashing out at him!
John Adams, America

Free the police from paperwork and get these scumbags off the street

John B, UK

We can start by dropping this liberal garbage about "rights" for the criminal. If you commit a crime you pay the price which should match the crime. If you vandalise property you pay for repairs. If you daub graffiti you clean it off again. If you repeat-offend you go to jail. Free the police from paperwork and get these scumbags off the street. Simple.
John B, UK

Getting more police officers onto the street acts as a visual deterrent. However, what we really need is a legal system that acts as a deterrent when police are not in sight. A system that either fails to punish the right people, or punishes people with lenient sentences is not going to act as a deterrent at all.
As for excessive drinking being to blame, does this mean we will be seeing a heavy increase in the tax on alcohol in much the same way as motorists have seen a high rise in tax on fuel?
Martyn, England

Zero tolerance is the only way to get the message across

Alex S, UK

Bring back some arcane punishments. Death penalty for first degree murder. A life prison sentence should mean exactly that. Stop letting violent, dangerous criminals out on the streets to re-offend, and we'll be half way there.
The liberal approach to law and order does not work. Thugs and criminals have rejected the laws by which society lives and functions, therefore society should reject them. Zero tolerance is the only way to get the message across.
Alex S, UK

I think there is a probably a community way to do this - people have to get out more. At night town centres can be become unstable places because law-abiding people stay at home. This in the worst case can cause riots, as happened recently in Aylesbury when a taxi strike (due to an assault on two taxi drivers) left drinkers stranded and angry.
Guy Robinson, UK

We have to be careful how we interpret statistics. This is because more crime is being reported than in the past, including domestic violence. For example the Hertfordshire Constabulary have successfully prosecuted men recently, using their own police photographic evidence of the battered victim. This never happened in the past and the police were reluctant to prosecute in domestic situations.
More street crime is also being recorded as a result of CCTV. So we must question whether this is a real increase or a correction of earlier under reporting. I think the use of private security firms in city centres could possibly supplement scarce police resources in tackling crime.
John, UK

We need greater police powers, more respect for the law and the police force

Brendan Fernandes, UK

It's easy to blame drugs and alcohol for crime, whereas the real problem is that it is simply too easy to commit crime and get away with it. We need greater police powers, more respect for the law and the police force, and, most obviously, more policemen on the streets.
Brendan Fernandes, UK

If the police weren't so busy harassing motorists for trivial speeding offences they might have time to investigate real crimes.
Neil Pearce, UK

There seems to be more laws on the side of the criminal than the victim these days. The government should change this - the criminal should have no rights. There is little or no deterrence. People who commit crimes know they will probably get away lightly with it, while the victim will be left to suffer.
Gary Holcombe, UK

New Labour have abandoned their traditional heartlands and hammered the middle classes only to climb into bed with the criminal fraternity.
Dr. S, UK

We need to be much stricter when it comes to sentencing. Too many times criminals are let off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
Neil Pearce, UK

CCTV is a device to help the police not be the police

Mark S, UK

Yes we do need more bobbies on the beat especially in town and city centres and more rural areas. All I seem to see now is the police driving around in cars which is not effective policing and nor masses of time taken to catch speeding motorists. CCTV is a device to help the police not be the police.
Mark S, UK

Get rid of the Labour government. Ensure the victim is treated properly and once someone has committed a crime then they lose their rights.
Graham, England

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18 Jul 00 | Politics
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