Law and Order policy

Since 1990 there have been 3 stages of Law and Order policy. Care of the community until 1993 and then back to basics law enforcement lasting until Labour came into power. During the early 90's there was a lack of stability within Law and Order policy and until Labour's government in 1997 there was little consensus between the main parties. Through the third stage of Law and Order since the 1990's, tough on crime, tough on the cause of crime, stability has been brought to this issue with an ever-growing realisation by the main parties that a tough Law and Order agenda is a real vote winner.

To a large extent there is now a consensus between the main parties over law and order. Since Blair coming into power and the emergence of new labour with there attitude of "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime", there has been an era of consensus, particularly between the Labour party and the Conservatives. In the aftermath of the appointment of Michael Howard Back to basics law enforcement was drafted in with a great demand from the public for a tougher stance over the issue of Law and Order due to the continual rise in crime rates under the softer approach advocated by care of the community.

A lot of the main features were embodied in the Criminal Justice Act of 1924 and the 27-point plan. The Conservatives wished to tackle juvenile crime with Michael Howard announcing the introduction of detention centres for 12 -14 year olds as well as giving magistrates powers to give longer custodial sentences to 15 and 16 year olds. This is in line with Labours policies over youth crime following Mayor Giuliani of New York's line of zero tolerance. Statistically most crime was caused by young men aged 15-25 and the UK government could make far more Social interventions then governments in the USA.

In 1999 ASBO's were introduced as a measure against youths suspected of causing widespread crime and disorder within a community. Youths who failed to abide were liable to prosecution this created a new offence classed under general behaviour rather than specific crimes. The main piece of legislation drafted to tackle this problem was the Crime and Disorder Act of 2000, aimed at young repeat offenders responsible for the majority of crime. A Youth Justice Board was set up to help co-ordinate government efforts and give advice as well as a warnings system brought in.

Curfews were introduced for minors and restrictions on youths over entering certain areas, The Criminal Justice and Police Act of 2001 further bolstered this with curfews and detention centres extended, it was an attack on the "yob culture", within Britain. The main feature was of fixed on the spot fines used against disorderly behaviour to provide justice and help police deal with general disorder more effectively. Over youth crime there is a clear consensus between the two main parties.

The Liberal Democrats agenda is not dissimilar over this as well but they advocate punishment through community service and a similar idea to ASBO's are represented in their proposed Acceptable Behaviour Contracts. As part of the new tougher stance o crime this also extended to deal with criminals of all ages. Labour introduced minimum sentences for various serious crimes such as murder in line with Michael Howard's Crime Sentences Act of 1996. In regard to prisons Labour have also been brought around to supporting privatised prisons through the Private Finance Initiative.

Greater testing and controls were also introduced for criminals with schemes such as the sex offender's list being started. In line with tightening rules over bail electronic tagging was introduced in an attempt to keep tabs on criminals tightening probation controls. But this was not an overly active area as it was during Conservative rule with Labour hoping that more effective policing would deal with this. The rights possessed by criminals also continued to diminish under Labour. Under the Tories the right to silence had already been removed.

This trend continued in the Mode of Trial Bill, it removed the right to trial by jury for many medium level offences since they were less likely to convict then the Magistrate. Along with this Double Jeopardy was also introduced allowing a defendant to be tried for the same offence twice as long as new evidence was found removing one of the ancient rights within UK law. Finally DNA records were allowed to be kept on file on anyone who had been a criminal suspect, Michael Howard's call to "take the handcuffs of the police was being answered".

The infringement on human rights can also be seen, as being carried through from Howard's term in the Terrorism Acts passed, particularly with the ever-increasing lengths of custody without charge now reaching 28 days. Despite the various areas of consensus over Law and Order there are also areas of discrepancy over the issue, and this is mainly on the tough on causes of crimes aspect. Believing the roots of crime to be in childhood Labour realised only so much could be done through tough policies and bolstering the police and courts, something not really seen in the Tories after 1993.

From 1990-93 the Tories were slightly disillusioned in whether jail worked or not and adopted their care of the community policy but after an unsuccessful run with this they abandoned social causes reverting primarily to a tough stance over the issue with hard line policies. Labour pursued this issue by tackling social exclusion, joined up government (using various institutions to tackle the social problems) and through active citizenship, the idea individuals should feel responsible for what happens in their community.

To deal with this the Surestart program was initiated with financial backing of i?? 540 million behind it, a big break to what the Conservatives were doing focussing on children at risk via nursery education helping the child to integrate successfully into mainstream education. The New Deal also helped to contribute to this with older members of the community. Truancy along with various other issues was also tackled by the new Youth offending teams set up to deal with such problems.

There are also differences in policies over policing. The Conservatives were unable to spend on the police leading them to inaction over this core area of Law and Order policy. In 2000 Gordon Brown announced a significant increase in spending along with a plan to increase the service by 9,000 officers with police levels finally rising in 2001. This Labour government also broke away from the Conservatives in their push for large numbers of CCTV cameras and there various on the spot fines, along with speeding tickets.

There is some break from the consensus when we look at the Liberal Democrats policy though. They agree with Labours more police scheme but wish to radically extend it by adding 10,000 polices officers. Their prison policy is also different believing prisoners should be subject to a tough working day with a focus on education and training in order to rehabilitate, the idea to include this over deciding release dates is also a wide step away from Labour or Conservative policies.

The focus on community service as punishment for crime is also a far cry to the tough line policies of the Conservative and Labour governments. They are in line with a policy to increase police powers though with a proposed border force to combat terrorism. Overall between the Conservatives and Labour there is a consensus over Law and Order, the main difference is over emphasis. Whereas the Conservatives focus on tackling the issue, Labour also look more closely at the causes of crime.

Both parties have realised a tough Law and Order agenda is necessary in order to win votes though as seen in the 1997 elections where Labours manifesto put forward measures at least as harsh as those proposed by Howard. The main alternative to this hard line policy comes in the Liberal Democrats with there focus on more police on the beat watching society making sure people are safe and there focus on rehabilitation. This ideal of rehabilitation is fairly weak within Labour and Conservative policies and it is within the third party that the real break in the consensus comes.