Posted Under: Criminal Justice,Human Rights,Tories
Today seemes to be a bit of a Theresa May special on The Third Estate. But not all of it’s negative. Who’d have thought the Conservatives – the party which brought us Michael Howard and the Criminal Justice Act – could actually be better than Labour on civil liberties? Well, looking back at the last decade, probably pretty much everyone.
In signalling the end of ASBOs today, the Home Secretary has taken an important step in rolling back one of the most significant injustices of New Labour’s systematic assault on civil liberties.
A few years ago, I made the somewhat embarrassing decision to go on the Weakest Link. During the audition process, I met two men. One was a policeman. The other was a father whose son had been arrested by that policeman for starting a fight in a pub. Fair enough, you might say, and you’d be right. Criminally dangerous behaviour needs to be punished. But what was interesting about their story is that following his arrest, the son was served with an ASBO barring him from entering pubs. A few weeks later, he was caught having a quiet drink in a pub and given three month jail sentence.
The kid wasn’t jailed for starting a fight. He was jailed for walking into a pub. A completely legal activity. In essence, his ASBO made a crime of something that was not a criminal act. And with the power to turn almost anything into a crime, ASBOs are an incredibly dangerous tool. Climate campaigners, as we’ve seen, have already suffered at the hands of this repressive instrument.
The end of ASBOs is something to be celebrated. Now the Tories must do what New Labour utterly failed to do. Balance fighting crime with fighting the causes of crime. With cuts set to devastate the poorest communities in Britain, this may be a very difficult task.