*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***
Important information: We are currently experiencing technical issues with the webiste and it is currently running with reduced functionality, some category pages may not contain a full list of articles and the search is not currently working. We apologise for the inconvenience and should have everything back to normal as soon as possible.

Draconian legislation, parental authority, and the 2011 summer riots

by
04 January 2012

iStock

From the Revd Geoffrey Squire

Sir, — Further to your report on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments on the London riots (News, 9 December): I was amazed when a former member of a youth group told me that he had taken part in one of those London riots, even after he clarified that it was “Only making yobbish noises at the police and kicking rubbish around.”

When asked why he now disliked the police, he told me that “Two of those bastards in baseball caps” had given his brother an £80 PND fine and a lifelong police record for an extremely trivial “offence”, and that it had been disclosed using the term “disorder” in his CRB document, and that in turn had stopped him from following the career for which he had trained for three years. The “offence” was reported to the officers by police CCTV operators.

The UK’s CCTV and other police surveilance is the most extreme the world has ever known. The high level of fines, the frequency of use, the inclusion of often misleading terms such as “disorder”, the lifelong police record, and their disclosures via CRB documents are all far more extreme than in any other EC nation.

Much of this is mainly directed at young people, and every aspect of it is increasing at an alarming rate. Likewise, the rift between the young and the law-makers and the police and other law-enforcers is getting ever deeper as a direct result.

It is not that the young have lax attitudes to law-and-order issues. Many of those who condemn this excessive preoccupation with trivial “offences” and the draconian manner by which the related laws are enforced would be delighted to see far more severe penalties given to those who commit violent crimes or put people’s lives in danger by driving dangerously in order to excape from the police.

Asked if they would accept the Continental system of on-the-spot fines for trivial offences — i.e. a fine of around £20 issued by a properly uniformed police officer with no recording once paid, and therefore no disclosures — a group of eight young people all responded “Yes.” It is the extremism and zero tolerance that is the problem. The punishment no longer fits the crime.

The young will only take so much before real disorder will erupt; so the Government should have an in-depth investigation into this ex­trem­ism without delay. All it has to do is to observe the situation in our nearest neighbouring countries — France, Belgium, and the Irish Republic. They do not have this extremism in the law and its en­forcement in relation to trivial “offences”, and yet they have far less violence and far less real disorder among their young people.

GEOFFREY SQUIRE
Administrator, Youthlink (England and Wales)
Little Cross, Goodleigh, Barnstaple
Devon EX32 7NR

From the Revd A. John Ward

Sir, — Without endorsing every word, I find myself agreeing strongly with the opinions that Andrew Brown ascribes to Melanie Phillips in his snide caricature of her (Press, 9 December).

Only when the liberal intelligentsia — including Dr Williams — faces up to the catastrophic collapse of parental authority from which we now suffer in parts of our society will we be able to say anything to which the general public as a whole will listen with any respect. During the riots, chief constables and magistrates kept asking, “Where are their parents?” — putting a finger on a question of supreme importance.

A. JOHN WARD
6 Lower Forge
Bridgnorth WV16 5LQ

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear alongside your letter.

Church Times: about us

The Church Times Podcast

Interviews and news analysis from the Church Times team. Listen to this week’s episode online

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)