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EDITIONS
Monday, 12 August, 2002, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Spot fines 'infringement of rights'
Loutish behaviour is being targeted
Civil rights groups fear increase in police power
Spot fines to be issued by police for anti-social behaviour have been criticised as "an infringement of people's rights" by civil liberties groups.

The police have the power to impose fines of up to 80 in the three pilot areas of Croydon, in South London, Essex and the West Midlands.

The civil rights group Liberty said it was "unacceptable" to expect the police to be able to make instant decisions about a person's behaviour in public and whether it deserves to be penalised.


If they are brave enough to create mayhem then they should be prepared to pay for it

Dalawar Chaudhry
Restaurant owner
Spokesman Mark Littlewood said: "I think this gives the police quite unprecedented power in terms of being judge, jury and executioner."

He said the idea that the fines will unclog the courts was "completely wrong-headed".

"I think we will find that a lot of people who are issued with these notices will decide to go and challenge them in the magistrates' court," he said.

"If anything, that will involve more policemen giving more evidence and spending more time in court rooms reading their notebooks than has ever happened before."

The chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, Glen Smyth, wanted reassurances the fixed penalties would be collected, saying the pursuit of fines by magistrates' courts was "utterly woeful".

"Officers will soon be walking around like bus conductors, issuing tickets," he said.

'Yobs'

Chief Inspector James Andranov, of West Midlands police, told the BBC the new powers would only be used for minor offences.

Police would continue to arrest those who were drunk, violent or causing problems on the street, he said.

Once in custody, penalty notices could be issued.

"We certainly won't allow drunken yobbish behaviour to continue on the streets," he said.

Police will monitor the use of the notices by individual officers and if necessary discipline those who are abusing their power, he added.

Dalawar Chaudhry, an Indian restaurant owner, said the scheme was a good one.

Chief Inspector James Andranov
CI Andranov: Fines for only minor offences
He has had many problems in the past with diners misbehaving.

Up until now he said when the police are called the people who are misbehaving are cautioned but then later re-offend.

"This is probably the only deterrent - if it hurts in their pocket," he said.

"If they are brave enough to create mayhem then they should be prepared to pay for it."

In Birmingham, one of the pilot areas, the reception of members of the public was mixed.

One man said: "I certainly think it is a good idea. It will cut down o the amount of people going through the courts which automatically saves a lot of money."

Another man said: "I think it's a terrible idea. I don't earn a lot of money and the money I earn, they'll have every penny of it.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Mark Littlewood of Liberty
"This gives the police unprecedented power"
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"
See also:

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