[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Fines to keep 'yobs' out of court
Drunk man
Tony Blair once suggested marching yobs to cashpoints
Assault and threatening behaviour could soon be dealt with by 100 on-the-spot fines rather than court action.

Consultation ends on Monday for Home Office proposals to extend the range of offences with fixed penalty notices.

Tony Blair was ridiculed in the papers in 2000 when he suggested that drunken louts should be marched to a cashpoint to pay fines.

Drunkenness, theft up to 100, assaulting police, and cannabis possession are also in the plans.

The Home Office said they would not comment on leaked documents, but it is understood no decisions have been taken and recommendations have not yet been looked at by ministers.

The Times reported that mugging also featured in the "informal consultation" document, but this is believed not to be the case.

These are crimes that involve victims, and sometimes violence, and some of them are at the top end of what government research has shown the public regard as serious
Cindy Barnett
Magistrates' Association

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, said he believes there was no question of muggers being given on-the-spot fines instead of facing court action.

The lord chancellor said the notion was "wholly inappropriate" and would harm confidence in the justice system.

"It doesn't sound right. Mugging is an extremely serious crime. Robbery is an extremely serious crime. People would lose confidence in the justice system if the consequence was you got a on-the-spot fine of a hundred quid.

"I think, for example, a lot of driving offences can probably be dealt with by on-the-spot fines, but not an assault on someone with a view to stealing something. That seems to me to be wholly inappropriate."

Wrong message

Cindy Barnett, chairman of the Magistrates' Association, told the Times the proposals undermined the gravity of serious offences.

"These are crimes that involve victims, and sometimes violence, and some of them are at the top end of what government research has shown the public regard as serious. They should not be dealt with by penalty notice. What kind of message does this send out?

"Serious offences will end up being sentenced by the police and/or prosecution, and underlying problems such as drug abuse will be missed, because speed is seen as more important than taking people to court through a proper process.

"Magistrates are unanimous and we have already given the lord chancellor the very clear message from every part of England and Wales that the government has already gone too far with these measures."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific