Poll backs hard line on crime

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The Independent Online
ATTITUDES TO crime and punishment remain strongly hard line, with overwhelming support for the death penalty and prison as a means of retribution, and opposition to any decriminalisation of hard drugs, according to an NOP/Independent poll, writes Terry Kirby.

This contrasts sharply with increasingly liberal attitudes to sex and morality highlighted by the first section of the poll, published yesterday, and gives support for the tough stance of Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, although most of it comes from older, working class or Conservative voters.

More than 90 per cent of those polled believe a lack of respect for authority and a lack of discipline in schools and the home are important causes of crime; only slightly fewer believe that inadequate powers for the police and too lenient sentences in courts are also important factors. When it comes to punishment, the poll shows 88 per cent support the death penalty. The main reason cited for jailing people is to show public disapproval of serious crimes - favoured by 93 per cent. Only 69 per cent think prison is a means of reforming criminals.

But against the prevailing trend, the numbers of those supporting decriminalisation of marijuana are increasing, with 29 per cent in favour.

Paul Cavadino, spokesman for the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, said that although there was strong hidden support for non-custodial sentences for property crimes, when most people were asked about crime, they thought of violent crime. 'People want serious sentences for serious offences.'

Fred Broughton, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said that over the past 15 years, the pendulum had swung too far in favour of the small core of persistent offenders. 'It is therefore not surprising that the public is calling for tougher action to deal with them.'

Poll details, page 8

Leading article, page 17