Policing and Criminal Justice

Crime levels are unacceptably high, less than a quarter of all recorded crimes are solved and many crimes go unreported. Street crime is rising fast and more than one million violent crimes are reported to the police each year.

Endless promises of more and more police, longer sentences and tough crackdowns make good newspaper copy but cannot deliver as they do not address the causes of crime.

Street crime is rising fast and more than one million violent crimes are reported to the police each year. increasing the size of the police force and building new prisons is not the answer. Unless we tackle the underlying problems that cause crime, then our enforcement agencies will be constantly – and unsuccessfully – engaged in fire-fighting.

Although we do propose simple measures to boost police and courtroom efficiency, we would put much more emphasis on tackling the causes of crime. Our taxation policies would reward families who stayed together, our education policies would help those in most need and our rehabilitation policies would reduce re-offending.

We advocate setting the police free from unnecessary bureaucracy so that they are able to spend more time within the community. We would bring forward measures to break the link between drugs and crime and we will provide more effective treatment to help addicts. We would introduce measures to help in the detection of crime and we would provide a simple penalty points system for petty offences. For those who are convicted, we propose expanding education and skills training; and for those convicted of violent crimes, their release date would be dependent on their ability to re-enter society safely.

We have the police officers we need, but they must be used more effectively

The greatest deterrent to crime is not so much the sentence as the fear of being caught. However, criminals know only too well that the odds are stacked in their favour due to the heavy burden of bureaucracy and the restrictions of human rights legislation now faced by the police. Criminals are expert in human rights legislation which prevents even basic surveillance without special permission. An early priority would be to get rid of unnecessary bureaucratic procedures and to restrict the human rights of criminals. We would bring in more civilian staff to support police officers in routine and procedural duties and we would also provide incentives for them to delay their retirement.

We propose a range of measures to help with the detection of crime and the gathering of evidence. We would simplify rules on phone and mail surveillance and permit these as evidence in court. Rather than compulsory ID cards, we would make more effective use of existing passport, driving licence and national insurance records where necessary.

Speed up prosecutions and close legal loopholes

We would introduce measures to speed up court proceedings. Our legal system rightly provides various levels of appeal and the possibility of cases being reopened and reviewed. However, poor preparation, a lack of witness protection and deliberate stalling have caused all too many trials to collapse. We would also increase the discretion of courts to use evidence which may have suffered from minor procedural irregularities during the collection process.

Instant penalties for low-level offences

At present many offenders escape justice because of the vast amount of bureaucracy required to prosecute them through the courts. We believe that there is much more to be gained than lost by empowering police officers to deal with these matters simply and quickly. For minor and petty offences we would introduce a system of fixed penalty points. Individuals would pay fines and/or lose benefit based on the accumulated points and the collection of too many points could lead to community service.

However, the objective is to warn rather than to punish, and the penalty points system would give low level offenders an incentive to modify their behaviour. Penalty points would expire after a set period of time, thus only persistent offenders would face more serious penalties.

Prisoners should not be released if they still pose a risk …

Custodial sentences must retain a deterrent element and certain prisoners must not be released as a matter of routine. The actual time served should be tailored to individual offenders and be linked to their ability to re-enter society safely and responsibly. To those who are prepared to make the effort to recover their lives we should offer hope and the tools to succeed.

The release of offenders imprisoned for violent and serious offences should be subject to a comprehensive risk assessment. Those who continue to pose a serious threat to public safety should have their sentences extended or be monitored under special measures. The release of offenders imprisoned for violent and serious offences should be subject to a comprehensive risk assessment.

… but time spent in prison should be constructive

We need to ensure that prison provides a structured and purposeful environment with the maximum opportunity for offenders to reform. It is an inescapable fact that most criminals are a product of a broken home and a failed education with 65% of prison inmates less than 30 years old and illiterate. All prisoners should be given a basic education and skills training where necessary and young offenders must be kept separate from hardened criminals at all times.

… and offenders should go back into mainstream society on release

Prisoners are at greatest risk of re-offending on their release. We must therefore do as much as possible to give them the ability to live normally in mainstream society and not driven to re-offend. We would provide employer grants to give retrained convicts more opportunities and we would help them to find suitable accommodation or give them a share in any derelict local authority houses that they return to a habitable condition.

Fire-fighting is not the answer

We must break the circle of crime using all possible means. However, we firmly believe that the most effective way to reduce crime is to ensure that as many young people as possible leave school sufficiently well educated, trained and motivated to make a success of their lives.

Crime and drugs

Drug abuse generates a huge amount of criminal activity and its poisonous roots extend deep. Downgrading cannabis was not a success with the police having had their job made even more difficult and a growing number of people experiencing mental problems.

Until we can educate people away from using drugs altogether, we would cut drug-related crime by removing addicts from the clutches of criminals by giving them a prescription supply and by getting them onto abstinence-based rehabilitation programmes. We would phase out the use of methadone, especially in prisons, and replace it with rehabilitation.

We propose setting up a national drug enforcement agency to focus on dealers in hard drugs. It would be equipped with enhanced asset-seizing powers. Anyone convicted of supplying drugs with a street value in excess of one hundred thousand pounds would receive an automatic life sentence. The proceeds of asset seizures would be used to fund intelligence gathering and rehabilitation programmes. Drug awareness courses should be an essential component of all school curricula and reformed addicts should be brought in to warn young people about the problems they will face if they use drugs.

We would also bring forward legislation to enable young children whose health, education or mental welfare was being damaged by drug addicted parents to be placed for adoption.