Straw backs tough action on bad neighbours

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The Independent Online

Tougher action against "criminal neighbours" was promised yesterday by the shadow Home Secretary Jack Straw, in a move to further strengthen Labour's appeal on law and order.

The plans to use the criminal law to deal with long-term complaints against neighbours are seen by Labour leaders as a radical step, which could upset some of their supporters.

The present criminal system was "hopeless at dealing with chronic, rather than acute crime", Mr Straw told members of the Labour Party policy forum meeting in Reading.

Neighbours might shrug off a horrendously loud party once in a blue moon, a fight or intimidation from other residents of their area, he said. But the law was not able adequately to deal with cases where the misery went on every week, sometimes every day and night. "We need a criminal justice process which deals effectively with chronic, persistent criminal behaviour, as well as acute episodes of crime," Mr Straw said.

The detailed plans, to be announced early next month, are being added to the Labour law and order policy document, "Safer communities, safer Britain", which was endorsed yesterday.

Labour would reform the Crown Prosecution Service to include a separate prosecution service for each police force. The policy paper calls for increased penalties for crimes of violence and weapons offences; new offences of racial harassment; and enforcement to stop offending while on bail.