Police chiefs to debate 'instant justice'

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Police chiefs are discussing whether to call for new powers of "instant justice" to combat anti-social behaviour, it was disclosed today.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is considering pressing ministers to dispense punishment without the need for a court appearance.

Among the proposals are the immediate exclusion of teenagers from town centres at night and to ban street gang members from associating with each other.

Surrey's Assistant Chief Constable Mark Rowley has drawn up a series of ideas, which Acpo said were being considered internally.

"These are all ideas Mr Rowley has floated in our magazine," a spokeswoman said.

"They are things that are being considered internally and which we may want to see in the future."

Mr Rowley suggests powers to exclude offenders from town centres for an "appropriate period" when they are issued an informal warning or a fixed penalty fine.

Neighbourhood constables could slap three-month bans on gang members mixing with each other in public or meeting at a particular location. A possible fine, parenting order or Asbo could be issued if the ban was breached.

Mr Rowley also reportedly targets motorists who repeatedly drive in an unregistered car, with no insurance, driving licence or MOT.

They would face immediate seizure of the car, which could be crushed, and receive an interim driving ban before a court date.

Knife crime would be tackled by enabling officers to stop and search, based on "reasonable suspicion" from previous convictions.

In the above scenarios, the sentences would effectively be passed on the streets with an appeal to courts later.

Mr Rowley told Acpo's Police Professional magazine the service had seen its powers reduced so much that it was in danger of being no more than an agency of referral to a "slow and inaccessible" criminal justice system.

"It therefore is time to debate whether constables should be given substantial additional, discretionary, summary powers to meet these challenges," he said.

However, Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said officers were "less than enthusiastic" about the proposals.

"It's always been important in our system that there is a separation of powers ... so there is an independent scrutiny past the police action at two different stages," he said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"This would effectively take that away. It's a blurring of the lines."

He added: "This is the thin edge of what could be a much larger wedge. If we wanted a Judge Dredd-style system that would probably be the way you might start."