Tag Archives: decriminalise

Homelessness: Labour will repeal law that criminalises rough sleeping

Sleeping in bins: Has this young woman been found yet? (See This Site’s previous report.)

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn have announced that the next Labour government will repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824 which criminalises begging and rough sleeping.

They say the priority should be to support, not criminalise, those who are sleeping rough or begging.

The Georgian-era legislation is unnecessary for dealing with genuine anti-social behaviour as a number of other civil measures exist, including civil injunctions and criminal behaviour orders.

The Vagrancy Act was used to bring a criminal charge nearly 3,000 times in 2016, with offences commanding a fine of up to £1,000 and leaving those convicted with a two-year criminal record.

Labour has committed to ending rough sleeping within five years of forming the next Labour Government, with a plan to reserve 8,000 homes for those with a history of rough sleeping.

Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey has already announced plans for a £100 million fund to make emergency cold weather accommodation available for every rough sleeper during winter.

Now Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said: “It should shame us all that rough sleeping has doubled in the last eight years and nearly 600 people died while homeless last year.

“Homeless people need help, not punishment.

“The next Labour government will make ending homelessness a priority. We want to build a society which doesn’t walk by on the other side when we see someone in need.”

And Melanie Onn added: “It beggars belief that we still use Georgian-era laws to criminalise some of the most vulnerable in society.

“Treating rough sleepers as criminals does not solve the underlying causes of homelessness and makes it harder for them to access support to move away from the streets.

“Rather than criminalising rough sleepers Labour would support them, with 8,000 new homes available to those with a history of rough sleeping as part of a plan to eradicate rough sleeping within five years.”

The announcement has won widespread support from the Twitter commentariat:

And Mr Corbyn expanded on his own opinion of homelessness during a visit to a Northampton project that helps homeless people:

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Tax the rich? Hardship payments for benefit claimants? Sorry Nick – we believed you once before

Nick Clegg: He must have had his forked tongue in his cheek when he wrote the Liberal Democrats' latest list of pledges.

Nick Clegg: He must have had his forked tongue in his cheek when he wrote the Liberal Democrats’ latest list of pledges.

The Liberal Democrats have launched a desperate attempt to win back voters, packing their General Election manifesto with meaningless pledges.

Why are they meaningless? Because the Liberal Democrats, under the same leader (Nick Clegg), made pledges to us before the 2010 election – having already hammered out an agreement with the Conservatives that meant they would not be able to honour those commitments.

There is evidence that teams representing the Tories and Liberal Democrats negotiated what would be in a coalition agreement on March 16, 2010 – and abolishing student tuition fees, a principle Liberal Democrat pledge, was not part of it.

In this light, how can we believe Liberal Democrat plans to push for higher capital gains tax, bringing it more closely in line with income tax? How can we believe they would change tax relief for entrepreneurs, so it does not provide a tax loophole for the super-rich – or even the modest plan to cut tax relief on pensions from £1.4 million to £1 million? And how can we believe they will restrict access to “non-dom” tax status for foreigners living in Britain who do not pay tax on their earnings abroad?

The BBC has an even more hard-to-believe report that the Liberal Democrats will cut the Winter Fuel Allowance and free TV licences for better-off pensioners, in order to pay for a 66 per cent discount on bus travel (in England only) for young people aged 16-21.

This is doubly insulting to our intelligence. Firstly, a concession on bus fares is no consolation for the tripling of student tuition fees in which the Liberal Democrats participated after promising to abolish them instead – and don’t they know that means-testing benefits to discover who deserves them is not a simple matter? It is complex and costly – as Alex Little told us only a few days ago.

This comment of his is particularly apt: “Old Tories are often popping up to say they don’t need their £250 winter fuel allowance. It may be true that they don’t need it, but their motives for mentioning it are so these things will be means tested, the budget will be slashed and then they think they can ask for lower taxes, or more ‘contributory benefits‘ (code for benefits not available to the ‘undeserving’ who’ll need to rely on charity).”

The Liberal Democrats are being more than a little disingenuous with that promise, then.

And does anybody really think the plan to decriminalise possession of restricted drugs for personal use will ever happen? The Liberal Democrats know their performance in the Coalition means they won’t win any elections soon and are hoping to be part of another hung-Parliament alliance. This means they would be sharing public office with one of the other parties who, they state, have “blighted” UK drugs policy with “kneejerk prejudice and the wish to appear tough”. This is another pledge they can make safely, knowing it is never likely to happen.

You’ll notice, also, that the Liberal Democrats say next to nothing about the National Health Service – that foundation stone of British fair play and decency that they allowed the Conservatives to sell off to private companies (in which many of them are shareholders) in order to make a profit from the suffering of the sick.

They will increase its budget in line with inflation so the private companies leeching off of it won’t lose profit. How caring of them.

To cap it all off, Clegg repeated what has become the Liberal Democrat mantra ever since he first used it in December 2012: “Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling people to get on in life.”

It’s the ‘party message script’, you see. Back in 2012, he added: “We will stay the course on the deficit. We will cut income tax bills and help with childcare bills. We will invest in boosting jobs and we’ll reform welfare to get people into work.”

Considering his party’s record on those matters, there is certainly no reason to buy any of what he’s peddling today.

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Crimewave threat as police austerity means the innocent will suffer

Repression: Scenes like this could become commonplace in the UK as austerity forces police to stop investigating crime and people who try to protest are put down.

Repression: Scenes like this could become commonplace in the UK as austerity forces police to stop investigating crime and people who try to protest are put down.

How free do you feel today?

Whatever your answer, enjoy it while you can because new evidence has shown that funding cuts for the police are likely to result in public repression on a massive scale.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has revealed that austerity is crippling the police service across England and Wales, meaning crime victims are being told to do their own detective work.

According to the BBC, “criminal damage and car crime were ‘on the verge of being decriminalised’ because forces had ‘almost given up'”.

Roger Baker, the inspector who led the review, tried to justify the failure by saying: “It’s not the fault of the individual staff; it’s a mindset thing that’s crept in to policing to say ‘We’ve almost given up’.”

In fairness, the report does say: “HMIC finds this expectation by these forces that the victim should investigate his own crime both surprising and a matter of material concern.

“The police have been given powers and resources to investigate crime by the public, and there should be no expectation on the part of the police that an inversion of that responsibility is acceptable.”

The report also found:

  • People received a different response from the police for the same kind of incident, depending on where they lived – so policing is now a postcode lottery.
  • Attendance rates at crime scenes varied from 39% in Warwickshire to 100% in Cleveland – postcode lottery again.
  • About a third of forces were failing to identify vulnerable and repeat victims – a gift to criminals.
  • There was “inadequate” use of technology by the police.
  • Some forces were losing track of named suspects because they did not have effective systems in place.

Enter ACPO, the sinister Home Office-funded Association of Chief Police Officers, to justify the withdrawal of law and order under the Coalition government’s austerity programme.

“The reality of austerity in policing means that forces must ensure that their officers’ time is put to best use and this means prioritising calls,” said Sir Hugh Orde, ACPO’s president.

ACPO has already anticipated that the effects of austerity may give rise to widespread public protest – which is why it lobbied the government for permission to use water cannons on the streets of the UK.

Vox Political stated in January: “This would be of no use at all in quelling violent criminal activities like the riots in 2011 – the police chiefs have already admitted that water cannons would have been ineffective in halting the “fast, agile disorder” and “dynamic looting” that took place during August 2011.

“ACPO is an organisation that has tried to put ‘agent provocateurs’ into legitimate protest groups and promoted ‘kettling’ to stop peaceful protests (as used in the student protests early in the current Parliament), among many other reprehensible activities.

“Considering its track record, it seems clear that ACPO wants to use water cannons against legitimate political protests, on the assumption that the increasing imposition of ideologically-imposed austerity on the country by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will lead to more political protests, as people across the UK finally realise that the Tories and their corporate lobbyist friends are actually working against the wider population.

“ACPO’s report on water cannons makes it clear that “it would be fair to assume that the ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest” and “the mere presence of water cannon can have a deterrent effect”.

“The Home Office response? ‘We are keen to ensure forces have the tools and powers they need to maintain order on our streets. We are currently providing advice to the police on the authorisation process as they build the case for the use of water cannon.’”

What we are seeing is – as mentioned in another VP article published today – when austerity is imposed on a service provided for everybody, that service degenerates.

In the case of policing, this means crimes go unpunished as our political leaders force constabularies to focus increasingly on keeping us under control.

We have already seen police officers checking bus tickets rather than investigating crime. Note that the VP article on this subject provoked a flurry of justificatory comments on our Facebook page, from readers who exhibited a concern that we should not let the evidence convince us that anything was amiss.

ACPO has stated that austerity – such as that which is preventing the police from investigating crime – is likely to stir up public protest.

And ACPO – which, let us remind ourselves, is Home Office-funded – has, in a clear conflict of interest, advised the Home Office to allow the use of water cannon on British streets to put down any such protests, whether they are justified or not. Has it been paid by the Home Office to tell the Home Office what the Home Office wants to hear?

Innocent people exercising their right to protest against injustice will be arrested – while criminals will remain free to vandalise their property and steal from their cars, possibly at the same time.

That’s Tory-run Britain for you: The criminals run amok while the innocent are imprisoned.

Now how free do you feel?

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