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EDITIONS
Monday, 12 August, 2002, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Spot fines for anti-social behaviour
Policeman issuing a fine
Fines must be paid within three weeks
Police have been given the power to issue on-the-spot fines for anti-social behaviour in three pilot areas.

Officers will 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

Adult 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.

If they fail to pay the fines, police can prosecute them for the original offence.

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."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Guto Harri reports
"The fines would be like parking tickets"
Andy Tighe reports
"The people of Birmingham are likely to welcome to measures"
Ch Insp James Andronov, West Midlands Police
"The huge benefit for us is... we can issue notices when people are calm, sober, and in custody"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Anti-social behaviour
Will on-the-spot fines work?
See also:

12 Aug 02 | England
12 Aug 02 | UK
12 Jul 02 | Politics
03 Jul 00 | Politics
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