Labour's noise crusade

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The Independent Online
TONY Blair has ways of making you behave. Labour plans to introduce a "totting-up" points system for anti-social behaviour that would enable the courts to put bad neighbours in jail.

Tomorrow, Shadow Home Secretary Jack Straw will announce proposals for legislation that would create a new criminal offence of "repetitive but low-intensity" harassment.

Labour expects howls of protest from civil liberties groups, but a party spokesman said yesterday: "We believe the vast majority of the population and most interested groups - the police, local authorities and victims' organisations in particular - will welcome what we are proposing."

Mr Straw argues that there is a gap in the criminal law that ministers have been unable or unwilling to plug, and insists that a Blair government will act to curb anti-social, intimidating behaviour by neighbours.

"This is our toughest anti-crime initiative yet," Mr Straw said. "We will cut through the jungle of the criminal justice system, to take action against intimidation and harassment that many people suffer at the hands of their neighbours."

Labour is rather less specific on the individual instances of bad behaviour that could be "totted up", but said that noise, offensive graffiti and intimidation will figure on the charge sheet. Under the Straw plan, aggrieved citizens would report incidents of anti-social activity either to the police or to the environmental services department of their local council - or both.

Such acts, at present classified as a civil matter, would, when accumulated, become a criminal offence. Magistrates would be empowered to make an order against an individual, and any breach of the order would invite criminal charges that would be brought by the police.

A spokesman for the National Office of Victim Support described the proposal as "interesting", but expressed fears that lack of resources would make it difficult to implement.