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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 18:23 GMT
Blunkett defends fines for hooligans
Home Secretary David Blunkett
David Blunkett: Critics are "too quick" to judge
David Blunkett has hit back at critics of plans to introduce on-the-spot fines for hooligans.

The Police Federation, the Home Secretary said, was "too quick" to criticise the scheme, which he insisted would not be introduced unless it worked.

Penalty fines for minor public-order offences will be subject to a pilot period in five areas before being introduced countrywide.

Under the scheme, offenders would be given fines of 40 or 80 by an officer, depending on the offence, with time to pay.

Fine amounts
Wasting police time: 80
Knowingly giving a false alarm to a fire brigade: 80
Causing harassment, alarm or distress: 80
Throwing fireworks: 40
Drunk and disorderly conduct: 40
Throwing stones at trains: 40
Buying alcohol for a minor: 40

The offences include drunkenness, wasting police time, obstructing a highway, throwing fireworks and buying alcohol for under-18s.

But it was met with scepticism by the Police Federation - which did not impress Mr Blunkett.

He told reporters at the Welsh Labour Party conference in Llandudno: "Every time I bring in a new scheme I hear some organisation, regrettably too often it is the Police Federation, saying it won't work.

"If they (the fines) won't work then we won't do it.

"It is much better to test something out and be honest about it."

Controversial

Mr Blunkett also insisted he had not made a final decision on whether or not to push ahead with the scheme.

The idea, which was first raised by prime minister Tony Blair, is due to be tried in areas of five forces including the Metropolitan Police, later this year.

And preliminary legislation was contained in last year's Criminal Justice and Police Act.

The idea was welcomed by North Wales Police, understood to be one of the areas earmarked for the pilot scheme, along with Essex and West Midlands forces.

'Significant penalty'

Assistant chief constable Clive Wolfendale, who attended Mr Blunkett's conference speech, said: "The idea has some merit.

"If we can find a workable way of extracting from hooligans and yobs a significant financial penalty then we shall look at it."

Those caught and fined will also have the option of not paying and going to court, where if found guilty they will receive a bigger fine.

The Metropolitan Police has indicated it would consider including cannabis possession as another "ticketable" offence if the government downgraded cannabis from a class B to a class C drug.

The Met has evaluated a similar scheme in Australia but discovered that 50% of fines remained unpaid.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ben McCarthy
"There are some who have reservations"
Detective Inspector Mark Anastasi
"Fixed-penalty notices would provide a further option"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
On-the-spot
Will instant fines cure public disorder?
See also:

20 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Crime forum pledges tough action
22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Magistrates raise 'young thugs' fears
03 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair backs down on fining 'louts'
30 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Blair: Fine louts on the spot
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