`Hypocrite' lawyers are attacked by Straw

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The Independent Online
JACK STRAW yesterday accused "well heeled" lawyers who drive expensive BMW cars of being "hypocrites" by opposing the Government's new curfew orders aimed at curbing neighbours from hell.

In an angry outburst, the Home Secretary blamed opposition from what he described as "so-called civil liberties lawyers" for the failure of the anti-social behaviour orders, which can impose restrictions on the movement and actions of troublemakers.

He said that middle-class lawyers who lived in trouble-free "prosperous" neighbourhoods were hypocrites because they tried to prevent action against teenage tearaways on inner-city problem estates.

Mr Straw said he was "irritated" and "disappointed" that only five of the orders had been made in England and Wales since April, when the power came into force. In Scotland, only three orders have been secured.

Police or local authorities can apply for an order against an individual the courts believe will continue to cause "harassment, alarm and distress" to others. If the conditions of the order are breached, the defendant faces up to five years in jail.

Mr Straw told the annual conference of the Police Superintendents' Association: "Let me tell you what really sticks in my craw." He then attacked the "so-called civil liberties lawyers" who were "well heeled", lived in "quiet, prosperous neighbourhoods" and opposed the orders. "I guarantee if ever they are faced with interference within their own quiet life, they will be the first to reach for the protection of the law," he said.

He added: "Some of the lawyers and so-called legal experts have been running a campaign against social exclusion orders and suggest ludicrously they are against human rights [legislation].

"I'm pretty angry about this. I think there's a huge issue of hypocrisy there. These people will represent the perpetrators of crime and then get into their BMWs and drive off into areas where they are immune from much of the crime."

Mr Straw said justice for the victims of "appalling behaviour" was what mattered. "What about the justice and liberty of the Asian family in my constituency, who were subjected to months of racial abuse and violence by one particular family?" he asked.

The Home Secretary arrived at the conference near Chester, in Cheshire, amid a cloud of dry ice, dazzling lights, a burst of dramatic music and a slide show put together by the Police Superintendents' Association.

Earlier this month, two Liverpool 17-year-olds were placed under orders and banned from walking in two named streets and urinating and spitting in public.

Lawyers from the civil rights group, Liberty, helped to defend the teenagers. Liz Parratt, campaigns co-ordinator of Liberty, said yesterday that she drove a 1989 Nissan Micra and lived in the inner-city area of Brixton, south London. "I wish Jack was right about my lifestyle," she said.

She argued that "shooting the messenger won't make their crime policies any more effective or any more just. We do not want to trivialise the suffering caused by anti-social behaviour, we just believe that the orders are not the solution."

Ms Parratt said that the "mishmash" combination of criminal and civil procedure involved in the orders meant normal legal safeguards had been ignored. She added that the Home Office had written to all local authorities telling them to ignore warnings by civil-rights lawyers that the orders could breach human rights legislation.

t Motorists who exceed the 30mph speed limit by one or two miles per hour should face prosecution, chief police officers said as they called for a "zero tolerance" approach to speeding. The Metropolitan Police's Assistant Commissioner, Paul Manning, said at the Police Superintendents' Association conference that the increased risk of death to children hit by vehicles travelling at 40mph rather than 30mph was unacceptable.

"If [drivers] disregard the facts, then I believe the court should remind them in a most effective and hard-hitting way... that that is unacceptable behaviour and you have put your life and other people's lives at risk," Mr Manning said.

Ken Livingstone, Review, page 5


MARY CUNNEEN helped to defend the two Liverpool teenagers who last month became the first juveniles in Britain to be subject to an Anti- Social Behavioural Order.

As a solicitor working for the civil rights organisation Liberty, she earns less than pounds 30,000 a year, lives in Stoke Newington, north London, and drives a Nissan Micra. Liberty said she had taken a pay cut to join the organisation and clearly did not live the kind of life Jack Straw had described. Nearly all Liberty lawyers have taken a pay cut to work for the organisation.

John Wadham (pictured), director of Liberty, which opposes the use of Anti-Social Behavioural Orders, lives in Clapham, south London.

He said: "We don't draft international human rights standards, we just try to ensure that the Government complies with them. Shooting the messenger won't make their crime policies any more effective or any more just."

Fran Russell, assistant director of the Howard League, which campaigns for reform of the criminal justice system, has spoken out against the use of the orders.

Ms Russell said she used to count Jack Straw as one of her friends. She drives a 15-year-old VW Polo, also earns less than pounds 30,000 a year, and lives in Lewisham. "Jack Straw clearly does not understand that human rights lawyers do live in the community where they work. We do live in the real world," she said.

"He clearly needs to be made aware of human rights lawyers who live ordinary lives."