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UK Politics

Where the parties stand: Crime & punishment


At the heart of Labour's law-and-order plans is community policing. Alan Johnson, Labour's current Home Secretary, has committed the Government to protecting police funding and therefore maintaining the number of police officers on the beat for the next three years. Labour will continue to roll out its Asbo-dominated attack on anti-social behaviour – the latest example being the "dogsbo", aimed at curbing the behaviour of dangerous dogs. But also expect greater use of parenting orders and acceptable behaviour contracts.

All three parties want to be seen to be tough on crime. But in making the case for retaining DNA samples from suspects not convicted of any crime, Labour has managed to outdo the other parties on this. And despite a series of setbacks in the courts, ministers are still wedded to the continued use of the controversial control order for individuals suspected of links with terrorism.


The Tory policy making the most headlines is their commitment to having police forces run by directly elected commissioners. These would not replace chief constables, rather they would be instead of police authorities and would be voted for by the public. While Labour is pressing ahead with the Asbo-led attack on anti-social behaviour, the Conservatives have hinted that they may abolish Asbos. A possible alternative suggested by the party are grounding orders, which would confine children to their homes for up to a month for bad behaviour. As always, police numbers are an issue likely to be at the heart of the agenda on crime. While the Tories have stopped short of pledging to increase officer numbers, they have echoed popular rhetoric by promising to keep the number steady and to get officers out on the street rather than behind a desk. They have also said that they will scrap the ID card scheme and remove the names of innocent people from the DNA database.

Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats' main focus is on increasing the number of police officers on the streets. They have pledged to recruit an extra 3,000 officers and to pay for them by scrapping the Government's controversial ID card scheme. Their theory is that an increased police presence will deter criminals more than tougher prison sentences. The party plans to increase the availability of jobs and education for people in prison, aiming thus to reduce the number of repeat offenders and help steady, and then decrease, prison numbers. To cut gun and knife crime they propose a scheme whereby hospitals will share patient information with police, althe targeting of gun and knife hotspots. They plan to introduce directly elected police authorities. Will also remove from the national database the DNA of anyone not convicted by a court.