Green Manifesto 2010 Crime

Crime, and fear of crime, blight too many lives, especially in many of our poorest and most deprived neighbourhoods. No one should have to live in fear of street gangs, nor endure robberies or burglary, and shops should not be faced with constant shoplifting. Nor should we tolerate white-collar crime or internet fraud.

To deal with crime we have to address why it occurs and what to do when it does. On the causes of crime we must first recognise that there is more crime in more unequal societies, and that by making our society more equal in the ways set out in this manifesto we will also make it safer. Second, we must act on the fact that over half of all crime is caused one way or another by misuse of Class A drugs, mainly heroin or crack cocaine. Radical reform of our drug laws will massively cut crime. Making our streets safer through lower speed limits will foster community and indirectly cut crime. Finally, much crime is committed by young people, especially young men, and we need specifically to address this.

What to do after a crime has been committed is important too. Simply expensively imprisoning offenders, often without any remedial work, is worse than useless. The victim must come first, though, and we would introduce a system of restorative justice, where the onus is on the offender to restore the position of the victim as far as possible to where it was before the crime took place. Of course we accept that there will be some recalcitrant or violent criminals who will refuse this approach, and for them other options, leading up to imprisonment, will continue to be required.

Being safe, being secure

To address the causes of crime we would:

•Treat heroin and crack addiction as a health issue and not wait for them to become a crime problem. We would offer treatments that may include prescription of heroin thus removing the cause of most petty drug-related crime carried out by the addicts and removing the market from heroin dealers.
• Concentrate police and customs resources on the large-scale production, importation and marketing of these drugs.

Youth policy

•A doubling of the current investment in young people. This will mean an increase from the current £98 spent per person aged 13–19 per annum on out-of-school services to just under £200. This would come at an estimated cost of £1bn.
• The creation of 2000 Young People’s Centres (YPCs). Dedicated spaces for young people to meet and be creative. The centres would also offer access to information and specialist support for teenagers in difficulty.
• The creation of a national lead body to regulate youth clubs and YPCs.
• A UK-wide Young People’s Executive Council scheme will give representatives aged 11–17 (elected by voters aged 11–18) executive control over a small chunk of their local council’s budget (£25,000), which will be a designated youth fund.
• Every young person under the age of 18 and in full time education should be entitled to free off-peak bus fares, to encourage public transport habits in young people early on with a view to making this a behaviour for life.
• Raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years old. Reform of the judicial system to create a strong statutory presumption against the imprisonment of young offenders.
• Fashion industry ban on size 0 models to reduce pressure on girls to conform to an unhealthy and unrealistic ideal.
• National youth volunteering programme for every young person under the age of 18, fostering intergenerational community cohesion, as well as generating money for the economy.

• Take the £4bn a year illicit trade in cannabis away from criminal street gangs, by decriminalising its possession, sale and production, and by introducing a properly regulated trade with clear age limits.
• Give young people better things to do by doubling expenditure on local authority youth services, spending a further £1bn pa on ensuring universal access to quality facilities for music, art, drama, dance and youth clubs, as well as sports.
• Restrict police use of random stop and search powers, which damage police and youth relations.
• Improve the design of our cities to provide safer streets and public spaces.
• Focus on crime prevention measures, including more community policing under local democratic control, more local police stations, and the return of bus conductors and others who have an important effect on social order.
• Save £2.5bn per annum by not having ID cards, which are an unnecessary invasion of our privacy and will do nothing to prevent crime and terrorism.
• Provide proper funding for Women’s Refuges for victims of domestic violence.

After crimes have occurred we would:

• Look to establish restorative justice as a key feature of the UK criminal justice system. While denouncing the crime, this deals constructively with both the victim and the offender. As a result, we would drastically reduce the numbers sent to prison, saving up to £8bn over the next Parliament.
• Provide reading and writing courses for UK prisoners (two-thirds of UK prisoners have literacy skills below those of an 11-year-old).
• Repair damage done to public amenities and spaces promptly.
• Continue to oppose the use of the death penalty abroad.