Tag Archive | "The Home Office"

Stalking prevention orders

Home secretary Amber Rudd has announced that she is to introduce new stalking prevention orders that will give the courts fresh powers to order offenders at an early stage not to go anywhere near someone they have been compulsively pursuing but whom the police do not have enough evidence to charge. In future they will face asbo-style bans.

Police will be able to apply to the courts for an order before a stalking suspect has been convicted or even arrested. Breaching an order’s conditions will be a criminal offence with a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

Rudd called it “a practical solution to a crime taking place now.” The orders in England and Wales will help those who are targeted by strangers, giving them similar protection to domestic abuse victims.

She said: “Stalking can have devastating consequences, and I am determined that we do all we can to protect victims from these prolonged and terrifying campaigns of abuse that can last years, leaving many people too afraid to leave their homes and unable to get on with their lives.”

One in five women and one in ten men will be affected by stalking in their lifetime. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales 4.6% of women and 2.7% of men aged 16-59 were victims in 2015/16 alone.

The protection orders will enable the courts to impose restrictions on suspected stalkers, including staying away from their target, restricting their internet use, attending a rehabilitation programme or seeking treatment for mental health issues.

The Home Office said the new orders would offer additional protection at an early stage for anyone who has not been in an intimate relationship with their stalker, helping those targeted by strangers, acquaintances or colleagues, as well as professionals such as doctors who may be targeted by patients.

The requirements of the order will vary according to the nature of the case. The suspect could be banned from going near the victim and contacting them online. They might also be ordered to attend a rehabilitation programme, or undergo treatment if they have a mental health problem.

As reported in the ‘Guardian’ Garry Shewan, Greater Manchester police’s assistant chief constable and the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for stalking and harassment, said: “We want to stop stalkers in their tracks. In the last year, police have recorded 32% more stalking offences and more perpetrators are now being prosecuted. The launch of stalking protection orders will help us intervene earlier and place controls on perpetrators to prevent their behaviour escalating while the crime is investigated.”

But critics fear that the orders will be used as a substitute for pursuing criminal prosecutions by poorly trained police and prosecutors unable to gather evidence. They also voiced concerns that breaches would not be rigorously enforced.

Stalking protection orders form part of a package of government action to coincide with 16 days of action following the 25 November International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. Introducing the new orders will require legislation which ministers said they will table as soon as possible.

Photo by Government of UK – https://www.gov.uk/government/people/amber-rudd, OGL 3, Link

Posted in Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Investigatory Powers Act

Britain leads the world in the use of CCTV. As a result, surveillance has become an inescapable part of life. Britain has a larger DNA base and more police powers and email snooping than any comparable liberal democracy.

This was the very solid base for coalition home secretary Theresa May’s snooper’s charter bill four years ago which would have allowed GCHQ to conduct real-time surveillance of a person’s communications and their web usage. Downing Street initially brushed aside libertarian objections but then plans were put on hold after being condemned by MPs of all parties. Nick Clegg, then Deputy Prime Minister, announced that the contentious measures would only be published in draft form and would be subject to widespread consultation, concessions that could delay the proposals for at least a year. Read the full story

Posted in Civil LibertiesComments (0)

Sobriety bracelets

People who are convicted of criminal damage or common assault committed under the influence of alcohol could be forced to wear a ‘sobriety bracelet’ for four months, as an alternative to going to prison. David Cameron has announced that the Conservatives will give judges the power to use alcohol abstinence orders if the party is returned to government next year.

A person who accepts a formal police caution can agree, as a condition, to stay sober and wear the ‘sobriety bracelet’ for a period of time, up to a maximum of 120 days. Instead of going to prison, offenders will then be forced to wear an electronic tag, which tests sweat for alcohol, for up to 120 days.

The tag is fitted around the ankle and automatically samples the wearer’s perspiration every 30 minutes. Information is transmitted to a base station, where the data is downloaded and checked by officials. Offenders who fail to keep off alcohol could be hit with a fine or, ultimately, a custodial sentence.

The tags were first introduced in 2007 in South Dakota in America. 83% of offenders didn’t drink while tagged, the incidents of drink-driving across the state fell and the jail population declined. It wasn’t long before the bracelets were introduced across America. So far, they have been used on 360,000 offenders.

The police, led by the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, have been pushing for the use of sobriety bracelets, saying it would help cut crime in the capital. The police commissioner said 80% – 90% of night time arrests by the Met were associated with excessive alcohol.

Sobriety bracelets are already being trialled in Britain at the moment, in London, Cheshire and Northamptonshire. The first one was handed out at Sutton magistrates court in August to an offender convicted of using abusive language and provoking unlawful violence.

Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds said: “The tags mean that we can monitor alcohol consumption 24/7 and then hold people to account for drinking when they shouldn’t. The tags will be voluntary, and if an offender is offered one but refuses it, he or she will then face other sanction within the current criminal justice process. They are primarily aimed at the binge drinker.”

The Home Office envisages up to 5,000 offenders a year would be ordered to wear the tags, at a cost to the taxpayer of £15m. Prison overcrowding has long been a problem and cuts in public spending have only made the problem worse. The programme costs £800 per offender for 120 days, a lot cheaper than putting a person in custody, and would prevent the long-term damage that often occurs when a person spends time in jail.

Harry Mount for the ‘Daily Mail’ conducted a consumer test of the bracelet, including ‘to destruction’ by drinking. He found that in two days wearing the device he barely noticed it buzzing and slept through it. The bracelet was slightly uncomfortable, and on a long walk it began chafing the skin above his ankle.

He concluded: “I began the experiment by thinking it was a draconian imposition on civil liberties. I end up convinced of its use as a law enforcement device. Not only does the tag barely interrupt your everyday life. It also saves taxpayers’ money, keeps offenders out of jail and makes our High Streets more pleasant.”

What is puzzling is why the Prime Minister waited until he was in Australia before announcing this policy initiative.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

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