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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 18:22 GMT
Liberal Democrats: Home affairs

Find out more about Liberal Democrat policies on home affairs.


POLICING

The party has pledged to recruit 6,000 additional officers based on the levels given as of March 2000.

It also pledges to fund 2,000 part-time officers working in communities by creating a new category of retained police. Each constabulary would also establish a community safety force. This would focus on public safety issues by bringing together the work of groups such as traffic wardens, estate wardens and other public officials.

Police forces will be obliged to consult communities over their policies for crime fighting in their area.

To help the police formulate these policies, there will be a national crime audit to understand where the problems lie.

As part of its alternative to the Queen's Speech of 2000, the party proposed introducing an independent police complaints authority and strengthening the powers of the official police inspectorate.

Police surveillance operations would be obliged to submit themselves to judicial oversight.


CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Liberal Democrats believe that the UK should have a Ministry of Justice to separate the court systems from law enforcement.

The ministry will be charged with ensuring proper access to justice for all.

The party also opposes the loss of an absolute right to a jury trial, as supported by Labour on the grounds of speeding up the progress of cases.

The Liberal Democrats propose creating Crime and Disorder Partnerships which will focus on making sure that local residents get to see the benefits of crime fighting.

A national crime reduction agency would monitor and advise the work of the partnerships and report back to government.

The party has pledged investment in youth services so that young people can be diverted into creative activities and away from potential criminality.

Victims of crime will be given greater rights to be heard in court. The party also wants to overhaul victim compensation packages.

The party also believes that there should be changes to the court system to make it fairer and more supportive of women who have been the victims of domestic violence and rape.

The party wants legislation to strengthen sentences for aggravated hate crimes of all types.

The Liberal Democrats will introduce a "full working day" into prisons to help equip prisoners with the skills needed to go straight when they are released.

The party believes in making better use of community sentencing for less serious offences, including using tagging, reparation to victims and restorative justice schemes.


RACE RELATIONS AND EQUALITY

The Liberal Democrats supported legislation introduced by Labour in government to bring police actions under the Race Relations Act.

The party believes that there is a positive duty on public bodies to promote good race relations and deter indirect discrimination.

Therefore, the Liberal Democrats would introduce an Equality Act which it says would tackle all discrimination.

The legislation would expand protection against discrimination to age, disability and sexuality. The party would also instruct police forces to establish police hate crime investigation units to co-ordinate action.

The party commended Labour for incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into British law - but has criticised it for failing to establish a Human Rights Commission to monitor, promote and advocate change within British society.


ASYLUM SEEKERS

The Liberal Democrats would scrap the "no change" rule on the use of asylum seeker vouchers.

The voucher scheme would eventually be scrapped altogether and replaced by support through the social security system.

There would be an annual statement to Parliament on the state of asylum seekers and how well the government is doing in processing applications.

The party supports reforming the grant system that funds local authority care of asylum seekers so that the councils get back all the money that they spend on housing and other services.

Liberal Democrat policy includes piloting "open reception centres" and lifting restrictions on asylum seekers taking work.


DRUGS

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy stated has year in an interview that he did not believe that cannabis was in the same category as other drugs which cause "major disruption and social misery".

During the 2001 election campaign, Mr Kennedy said that he opposed moves to decriminalise cannabis.

Party policy is to establish a Royal Commission on all drugs in society, including alcohol, tobacco and solvents.

The party also supports introducing a system of US-style drugs courts (currently being piloted in Scotland).

If they follow the US model, these courts will offer drug addicts a choice between a prison sentence and rehabilitation and treatment programmes.

The party would set a national standard for drug treatment programmes and a maximum waiting time for referral to these services.


CIVIL LIBERTIES/EQUALITY

The party advocates an Equality Act to tackle all discrimination.

This would aim to expand protection against discrimination on the grounds of age, sexuality, race and disability.

The party supports the establishment of a Human Rights Commission.

This would act as an advisor to government, an advocate for human rights and a point of preparation for cases brought under the Human Rights Act.

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