» Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Police Powers

Asked what new powers could be given to the police to tackle anti-social behaviour, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the new powers would be detailed in the Respect legislation but we needed to leave discussions to go on within Government in terms of where we were going, without going into the detail. We would leave that to the legislation. Put to him that the powers seemed to have been applied to a very wide range of offences, the PMOS said no. As the Prime Minister had said this morning in his monthly press conference, it was appropriate in certain circumstances. Even in those circumstances, as with fixed penalty notices now, people could challenge them and could take up the issue in court. It was interesting that in the bulk of fixed penalty notices people had not done so. What was required was a balance between on the one hand the need for justice to have been seen to have been done in terms of the police visibly acting to stop low level thuggery. On the other hand we needed to secure people's rights. Fixed penalty notices and so on did do that. Put to him that it gave the impression that we had given up on the concept of innocent until proven guilty, the PMOS said that as the Prime Minister had said in the past, of course you needed to make the criminal justice system fit the purpose and that was part of what was behind the large scale reforms that Lord Falconer was taking through the criminal justice system. Equally, you had to recognise that there was a balance between the 'hassle factor' of taking someone through a long lengthy process rather than dealing with it at the point. For everybody concerned it was better to deal with it at the point. If that meant that people paid a penalty for low-level activity which was deeply disturbing for the victims of that activity and it stopped, then that was clearly the correct way to go. The police had said that not only did they believe that fixed penalty notices were very important but furthermore actually did stop yobbish behaviour. Put to him that the Prime Minister seemed to move seamlessly from major crimes to yobbish behaviour, the PMOS said no. The Prime Minister had said in the past, including at the Labour Party conference, that of course it was right and proper that people's rights under the law were protected. Equally we had to face the reality in certain cases it was more effective, more efficient and dealt with the problem immediately rather than allowing it to drag on.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (12)

Northern Ireland

Asked what progress had been made today in light of the Prime Minister's meeting with the Taoiseach, the PMOS said that we had had the decommissioning report, which as the Prime Minister had said, we believed was genuinely significant. We would have in a few weeks the report from the Independent Monitoring Commission, which we hoped would show that IRA activity had stopped. There was a second report due in January. We recognised that because of events last year people were sceptical. We believed that facts were changing and therefore gradually confidence would grow to allow a deal on devolution to take place. At the same time we had to keep emphasizing that loyalist paramilitary activity had to stop too.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

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