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Petty Criminals: What their punishment should be - you decide!


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Offenders face public vote on punishments

Ministers revive Respect agenda with plans to extend community justice


The public may be able to vote for what form of punishment is handed out to convicted criminals in their neighbourhood under plans being drawn up by ministers.


The government is preparing a green paper which will look at giving the public a greater say in the handling of low-level crimes such as disorderly conduct, possibly through local votes on punishments such as clearing graffiti. The green paper, due to be published by the Ministry of Justice in the spring, will also propose to increase the number of community courts, bolster court monitoring of community orders and give the public easier internet access to court decisions.


It will consider whether there should be more community courts modelled on those in north Liverpool and Salford, where judges and magistrates interact with the public in premises akin to community centres, and closely follow the progress of individual offenders.


The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said that she favoured local people being given a much clearer choice in deciding what form of community punishment is imposed in their neighbourhood. Currently much "community payback" is not decided by local people.


Research carried out by the Cabinet Office has persuaded her that greater community engagement would not encourage vigilante activity or excessive punishments.


The proposals are supported by the communities secretary, Hazel Blears, who said at a Number 10 crime summit recently that it was "the most powerful thing" when "local people got to vote on what it was they wanted the convicted criminals to do in their community, so there were 10 options and they voted on the top three, they then went and did it, they were seen doing it in the community and then they had to report back about what they had done.


"And it is that connection that gives people confidence." Smith feels that although the police are becoming better at informing local people about the progress of prosecutions, too many people "disappear" into the criminal justice system. She argues that "justice seen is justice done" and is backing plans for courts to set up local websites informing people of the fate of criminals and cases.


The justice secretary, Jack Straw, is also concerned about the opacity of the criminal justice system. He wants judges and magistrates to make greater use of section 178 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, under which offenders put on community service orders are required to reappear before courts to explain any failure to fulfil the terms of the penalty, or to be praised for meeting the terms of the sentence.


The green paper is another sign that the once sidelined Respect agenda to tackle antisocial behaviour is again at the centre of government thinking.


This month the Home Office will give the drive renewed impetus by for the first time publishing comparative data on how councils and police forces are using the range of antisocial behaviour orders. Smith believes that will spur some police forces and councils to make more use of the orders.


Straw recently argued: "It is not enough for the sentencing process to serve the interests of communities; sentences themselves should reflect communities' interests and carry their support.


"So, prisons should punish offenders and make them take responsibility for their actions; but they should also give offenders the chance to reform, to turn their lives around. And community punishments should be intensive, arduous and visible; giving local people a say in, and an opportunity to see, the work carried out by offenders."


Last summer a Cabinet Office review led by Louise Casey, who heads the Home Office's neighbourhood crime and justice group, concluded that while there was a public appetite for information on what happened to criminals, the justice system was resistant to this. "Even though court decisions and sentences are in the public domain and could be the key to greater public confidence in the justice system, we found a reluctance to provide this information actively," her report said. Smith told the Guardian it was wrong that Casey, former head of the Respect unit, was not retained in the Home Office but was moved to the Children's Department soon after Gordon Brown became prime minister. As a result the government lost focus on antisocial behaviour, Smith argues.


Since the publication of Casey's report, two of its chief proposals - the use of identifying uniforms for those undertaking community payback and a commissioner for victims - have been accepted by the government, and are being implemented. It has also been confirmed that the next new Labour initiative aimed at tackling antisocial behaviour will be to issue local people with government-issue pitchforks and flaming torches. Jacqui Smith said "We hope this new scheme will help local people feel more involved in the criminal justice system. It is important that we do all we can to appease the right-wing rednecks in our society, you know the kind of people who read the Daily Mail and write angry letters to local papers about things not being like this in their day. These are the people we are running this country for and we intend to jump on any and all of their bandwagons we can, no matter how stupid or ill thought-out they might be. This is the best way we can come up with of distracting people from the real issues affecting the country at present. We know just how much popularity a good witch-hunt can get a government and we aim to use this one for all it's worth. The redneck vote is very important to us."

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jan/02/justice-respect-agenda-public

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Guest lankybellwipe

Just give me a free 10 mins with anyone who offends against me, i can guarantee they wont do it again.


Because they'll kill you, and thus, won't need to?  :lol:

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