Crime and justice (4/34): assessing the Green Party of England and Wales’ policies

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This is part four of a continuing blog series aimed at noticing amendments that may be useful to the Green Party of England and Wales’ main public-facing document, the Policies for a Sustainable Society (PfSS). The full set of 34 policy chapters can be found here.

Starting opinions and personal thoughts before reading the chapter
Protection of the public from physical and mental harm is a crucial element to creating happy, sustainable communities. Too often, progressive politicians, movements and parties have been seen as unthinkingly “anti-police” without any nuance. Greens should champion the good that the police can do and question the cuts to funding that affect their ability to properly and fully tackle the root causes of crime. Nevertheless, the institutional racism or police forces, the erosion of civil liberties and warped policing priorities need to be called into question in order for root and branch reform of the police and the justice system to gain traction in the public’s imagination.

Most important thing I learned
There is an organisation that provides companions for pregnant women who are in prison.

Bulletpoint policies

  • Introduction of two departments at every level of government: Departments of Crime Prevention – including social crime prevention (i.e. reducing social pressures that are/likely to be conducive to crime) and promoting education around communication, cooprtation and problem solving skills – and Departments of Justice – combining current functions of the Lord Chancellor’s Department and the Home Office in relation to the administration of justice, including responsibility for the judicial system, sentencing policy and practice, and sponsoring services such as assistance to victims and dispute resolution initiatives.
  • Ensure universal access to high quality youth facilities and open spaces.
  • Improve street lighting and ensure people-friendly street design.
  • Ensure prompt repairs of public amenities and spaces.
  • Increase resources for caretakers, attendants and staff on estates, railway stations, parks and other public areas.
  • Tackle drug related crime by pursuing measures such as better-funded health education/service and free counselling and advice, especially to children and young people, and establishment of appropriate drug-use clinics and needle exchange schemes, and other harm minimisation strategies
  • Support for police forces being supervised and accountable to elected local government.
  • Support for an independent approach to investigations of police criminality and corruption, incorporating transparency in ensuring police are charged and investigated in the same manner as all other citizens of the UK.
  • Support for the appointment of more community and part-time police.
  • Support for recruitment to police forces emphasising selection of candidates with previous experience in other walks of life.
  • Support for an emphasis on crime prevention.
  • Support for thorough anti-racism and equalities training for all staff working in the police and related services, full implementation of all Lawrence inquiry report recommendations, and requiring all police forces to have equality and diversity liaison officers whose remit is to support and educate colleagues and ensure that incidents and hate crimes which target LGBTIQA+ people, people from black and ethnic minorities (including refugees and asylum seekers) and disabled people are thoroughly investigated and where appropriate, prosecuted, and that preventive action is taken.
  • Support for strong, democratic community policing committees in every neighbourhood.
  • Support for more local police stations.
  • Support for greater emphasis on ensuring diversity in all levels of policing
  • Commitment to fully independent inquiries into deaths in police custody and the police shooting of civilians
  • Commitment at local level of government for the setting up of Local Mediation Centres and funding of their running.
  • Commitment for re-targeting of resources towards enhancing co-operation between the police, the Prosecution Service, defence services, mediation services and courts and towards providing all parties involved in the justice process with sufficient means to reach fair decisions through transparent due process.
  • A detailed conception of the use and process of restorative justice and mediation for victim and offender
  • Commitment to significantly reducing the prison population.
  • Introduction of new principles giving Courts the duty to sentence to ensure reparation to the victim/community, then persuade and enable the offender to become a law-abiding member of the community.
  • Take into account any completed reparations before sentencing.
  • Replace fines with measures which make reparation for the harm/ inconvenience caused.
  • Support for vulnerable people to reduce likelihood of offending.
  • A commitment to constant monitoring of sentencing practice.
  • Commitment to a comprehensive strategy to tackle, significantly reduce and ultimately end hate crime.
  • Commitment to end the disproportionate targeting of ethnic minorities through stop and search.
  • Commitment to provide relationship education in schools and other appropriate environments to inculcate values of respect for others and respect for difference
  • Introduction of training programmes for key frontline staff to recognise signs of domestic abuse and to be able to provide pathways of escape for victims, with encouragement of peer support networks, with appropriate training and support.
  • Commitment to expand access to counselling for all those affected by domestic abuse, the victims, the witnesses and the perpetrators.
  • A commitment to permanent guaranteed funding for refuges, future housing and safety measures for victims of domestic abuse.
  • Commitment to essential services for all victims to help them through the trauma and difficulties to escape abuse, including help with housing, legal costs, etc. Provision of appropriate resources to the court system to ensure that the needs of victims of abuse are recognised, both in hearings related to their case and other matters.
  • Commitment for every police force to have a dedicated Wildlife and Animal Crimes Unit, which will work in liaison with local/regional Animal Rights Officers
  • Commitment to a separate code dealing with motoring and road traffic offences.
  • Call for the repeal of the Vagrancy Act 1824 because it is open to abuse by police and government, discriminates against homeless people and wrongly labels them as criminals.
  • Statement that only the Crown Court will have the power to order detention and only when it is satisfied that the public must be protected because there is a substantial risk of a further grave crime, or that the offences have caused such public alarm that the offenders presence in the community would constitute a threat to his/her own safety.
  • Commitment to a maximum duration of detention, with parole or early release subject to Department of Justice executive review with a right of appeal to a judicial forum.
  • Commitment to prisoners’ right to vote. (Any decision to deny a prisoner the vote will be taken only by a judge, taking into account the particular circumstances of his/her case.)
  • Commitment to community payback for inability of individuals to make financial reparations.
  • Commitment that no person in contempt of court will be detained until an opportunity for non-custodial means of purging the contempt has been offered.
  • Improvement of the physical and social standards of prisoners so that as far as possible the only limitation on the dignity of their lives will be the denial of freedom of movement outside the prison. (This includes having their own room, facilities for communication and association with family and friends, unsupervised visits and as far as possible detention near their family and home community.)
  • Statement that the only women who should be in custody are those very few that commit serious and violent crimes and who present a threat to the public
  • Ensure community sentences are designed to take account of women’s particular vulnerabilities and domestic and childcare commitments, and increase flexibility of the restrictions placed on sentencers around breaches of community orders.
  • Replace existing women’s prisons with suitable geographically dispersed, small, multi-functional custodial centres.
  • Provide more supported accommodation for women on release to break the cycle of repeat offending and custody.
  • Extend the scheme for pregnant prisoners provided by the charity Birth Companions to all women who wish to use it, with government funding
  • Improve prisoners’ access to meaningful activities, particularly real work and education and artistic and creative facilities and ensure all prisoners attain levels of literacy sufficient to allow them to function effectively in modern society.
  • Offer counselling and appropriate assistance to prisoners to overcome the root cause of their offences and reduce the likelihood of re-offending.
  • Commitment to seek innovative schemes (such as offering training in construction skills that prisoners can use to restore dilapidated housing that they can then inhabit) to help deal with homeless on release from prison.
  • Ensure prisoners rights are legally enforceable, including grievance procedures, a prisoners’ complaints commission, a prison ombudsperson, regular spot inspections by lay visitors and Department of Justice inspectors, step up of suicide prevention efforts and strongly encourage ‘Buddy schemes’.
  • Incorporate the Prison Medical Service into an improved National Health Service, with access to complementary health care, health education and the provision of counselling as well as the direct medication care of prisoners.
  • Apply the Health and Safety Acts and Factories Acts, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Unfitness provisions of the Housing Act 1985 to prisons, and absolish Crown Immunity in relation to prisons.
  • End custody of those under the age of 18, with Social Services Departments being responsible for establishing and running a range of small secure residential homes to cater for the needs of particular types of young people with special needs, with safeguards built in to the system.
  • Provide adequate facilities and a suitable environment to allow a young child to stay or live with their parent or guardian in custody when this is considered to be in the best interests of the child.
  • Opposition to privatisation, use of PFI and any creeping or part privatisation of prisons and the prison service.
  • Commitment to strengthen the right to bail for suspects, only being withheld when the court has strong grounds for believing that a suspect must be separated from the public until the trial for the same reasons as apply to the power to order detention, or if the suspect has failed to honour bail commitments. Ensure that special arrangements are made to ensure that the trial of such suspects will normally be held within six weeks from the time of arrest.
  • Remand in custody will only be used for offences and offenders where detention after sentence is permitted, with a strict limit to the length of the remand.
  • Ensure a high level of gun control,  as well as addressing the social factors which contribute to people committing crimes with guns.
  • Commitment to define quantitively the lethality of a gun in law, thereby covering new weapons resulting from developments in firearms technology.
  • Prohibit the most dangerous weapons in law, with a complete ban on the private ownership/possession of all automatic and semi-automatic firearms.
  • Constitute a Gun Safety Advisory Committee to regularly review which weapons are prohibited.
  • Treat deactivated weapons as the same as activated weapons in licensing and prohibition terms.
  • Establish a single rigorous licensing system, based on public safety not the convenience of shooters.
  • Require firearms users for sporting or agricultural purposes to demonstrate their competence in handling firearms and satisfy the authorities of their mental and emotional stability, including obtaining the signature of a number of citizens to vouch for their good character, with any medical and psychological test costs being borne by the applicant.
  • Introduction of a new annual fee for firearms users which is sufficient to repay the economic damage – to police, court and NHS – inflicted on it by the abuse of guns generally.
  • Require firearms licence holders to renew their applications on an annual basis, with individuals whose licence application is rejected being required to wait at least two years before re-applying.
  • Commitment to a complete ban on the manufacture, sale and import of imitation weapons (replica guns and blank firers) and a ban on their public possession, with licenses for imitation weapons used for film/theatrical purposes, and legislation to ensure toy guns are highly distinct in appearance, probably by being made of clear/translucent plastic.
  • Abolition of the death penalty in all countries, and support of instruments and campaigns at national and international level which seek its global abolition.
  • Commitment to legislate to provide for the proper and robust prosecution of those who commit financial sector and banking fraud and participate in the mis-selling of financial products.

What I need to find out more about
Birth Companions
Crown Immunity

What I disagree with
Nothing major, except phrasing.

What I think needs amending or adding

  • CJ360-361 is too vague. It alludes to a “strengthening of legislation” around “environmental problems”, but doesn’t state to what it refers or what specifically would be strengthened.
  • The section on gun control (CJ500) is poorly phrased, and implies that the costs of medical/psychological tests for potential firearms license holders should be “borne by the applicant”, which is contradictory of Green principles of an NHS free at the point of use. Suggest removal of “the cost of medical and psychological tests must be borne by the applicant” in Licensing (Part iv, paragraph b).
  • Is it a good idea to use the term “loners” in a policy document? (CJ500)

The policy that I think needs most pushing publicly
Ending the disproportionate targeting of ethnic minorities through stop and search.

Next up: Chapter 5 (Culture, Media and Sports)

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