Conference policy

Conference policy

Time was when the only place to announce government policy was the House of Commons. Now this has been superceded by press releases, speeches, celebrity interviews, and, of course, party conferences.

Thus it was that justice secretary Chris Grayling chose the Manchester conference to announce a review into the use of all out-of-court disposals, particularly penalty notices.

According to the ‘Guardian’, last year 5,084 simple cautions, which do not involve any form of punishment, were issued for the most serious crimes. These included 962 for possession of knives, 1,543 for other weapons and 54 for supplying or offering to supply class-A drugs. They were also used to deal with offences related to children, including seven for child prostitution and pornography, 183 for taking, distributing or publishing indecent photographs of children, 268 for possession of indecent photographs of a child, and 1,560 for cruelty or neglect of children.

Grayling said he was scrapping, with immediate effect, simple cautions for serious crimes such as rape, manslaughter and robbery. Police will no longer use them for sexual offences against children such as child prostitution or pornography, possession of an offensive weapon or supplying a class-A drug, he said.

And home secretary Theresa May used conference to announce a further crackdown on immigration. She said that illegal migrants, criminal foreign nationals and others facing deportation will have their rights to appeal severely restricted. The number of grounds on which they could appeal will be greatly reduced, and the extent to which a fresh appeal could halt a deportation is to be limited. The moves are to be included in a new immigration bill intended to cut the 70,000 annual appeals by more than half. She added that the annual number of overseas student visas issued had been cut by more than 115,000.

May also confirmed that the party is prepared to withdraw from the European convention on human rights (ECHR) after the next election. “The next Conservative manifesto will promise to scrap the Human Rights Act,” she said. “It’s why the Conservative position is clear – if leaving the European convention is what it takes to fix our human rights laws, that is what we should do.” Chris Grayling set out a timetable for the development of the policy for a radical reform of human rights law. A document would be published in 2014 “setting out what we will do, when we will do it, and how we will do it.”

One fears for the future of the very well respected attorney general, Dominic Grieve. Seemingly alone in cabinet, he stands against the populist and gung-ho human rights policy, stressing the damage to Britain’s international standing of such a move. But then he speaks with a degree of common sense and knowledge on legal matters which is seemingly alien to many of his colleagues.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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