Police get power to impose £80 on-the-spot fines

 

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The Independent Online

Police officers were given powers yesterday to issue on-the-spot fines to drunken troublemakers in the latest government initiative against anti-social behaviour. Civil rights campaigners criticised the scheme, which gives police the "unprecedented power" to impose £80 fines for a range of offences as part of an attempt to cut bureaucracy and court time.

Police officers were given powers yesterday to issue on-the-spot fines to drunken troublemakers in the latest government initiative against anti-social behaviour. Civil rights campaigners criticised the scheme, which gives police the "unprecedented power" to impose £80 fines for a range of offences as part of an attempt to cut bureaucracy and court time.

The £80 penalties will cover threatening behaviour and making hoax 999 calls. A fine of £40 could be imposed for being drunk and disorderly, or for throwing stones at trains. Most of the tickets will be issued at police stations but they can also be given out on the streets. Accused offenders can chal-lenge the fine in court.

The civil rights organisation Liberty said the scheme, being piloted in several areas from yesterday, would fail to realise the Government's aim of unclogging the court system of minor offenders.

Mark Littlewood, of Liberty, said: "This gives the police quite unprecedented power in terms of being judge, jury and executioner. It's unacceptable to expect the police to be able to make an instant decision about people's behaviour."

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen House, of the Metropolitan Police, is overseeing the policy. He said the scheme merely offered officers another alternative and they were paid to make instant decisions every day. In Croydon, south London, there was considerable scepticism from some of the people who are worst affected by alcohol-related disturbances. Croydon, which along with the West Midlands and Essex started year-long trials of the scheme, is described by locals as the "new West End of London but cheaper".

One paramedic said the town resembled a battle zone on Friday and Saturday nights with many bars ejecting customers at 2am. "It won't change anything," he said. "The idiots we're dealing with aren't going to say we won't have a fight because we'll get a fine. What's £80 to them? It's not even a night out. What we need is more of a police presence."

Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said they would soon be walking around like bus conductors, issuing tickets.