Jan Berry responds to Government's plan to tackle violent action

Monday, 18 February, 2008

Jan Berry, Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, says:

"Police officers remain dedicated to tackling violent crime and violent offenders, but I fear that much of today's announcement is nothing more than sticking plaster solutions that do nothing to actually address the root of the problem, and the growing lawlessness and loutish behaviour we are experiencing on the streets.

"We welcome the presumption to prosecute those who are found carrying a knife, and agree there needs to be tougher sentences to deter anyone from considering such action. This is certainly better than the option being considered by the government just a year ago which would have seen those carrying knives merely getting a fixed penalty notice and not the possibility of a custodial sentence. We also congratulate Sara Payne for her persistence to ensure changes to the law to protect families from those who prey on young children. This seems a measured and sensible way forward to ensure public safety without the fear of vigilantism.

"But actions speak louder than words. If the government really want to make a difference and free police officers to tackle the most serious offences and offenders then the Home Secretary should change Public Service Agreement 24, thereby removing the Offenders Brought To Justice (OBTJ) targets, or sanction detections as they are better known. It is these targets that result in the arrests police officers are compelled to make merely to satisfy national diktats, not what the public actually want.

"In the same vain, the government should also restrict the use of Penalty Notices for Disorder to the most minor offences. We are encouraged to issue them for a range of crimes including theft, criminal damage and public order offences, and the reality is they don't deter crime and half of them are never paid. It's high time we were allowed to get back to common sense policing, using our discretion, and putting these persistent offenders before the courts. Otherwise they are just laughing in the face of the law and feel confident to go on to bigger and more serious criminal activity."

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