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Do away with most fixed penalties, cautions and other similar punishments.

Comment 1st July 2010

I believe that fixed penalties and cautions are used as a quick fix for seeming to deal with crime rarther than being appropriate punishment for real offenders. They are bad in two ways. Firstly they are used as a "slap on the wrist" for criminals who just go away and commit more crimes feeling they have gotten away with it. They are also open up to abuse in cases where there would not be enough or public interest evidance to take a case to court.

For the police, and increasingly private security contractors, these methods provide an easy way of dealing with crimes that looks good on statistics but is not good for justice. Cautions particularly can be given in cases where people really should be locked up, yet are also given in cases where under normal circumstances prosecution would never be considered.

Why does this matter?

Police Cautions in particular are regularly applied in cases which in the past would never have gone beyond a simple informal warning not to do it again and are leaving normally law abiding people with criminal records which stay with them for the rest of their lives and could effect their future employment. In other cases they are used where in the past a jail term (even suspended), community service or a substantial fine would have been seen as appropriate.

The same applies to fixed penalties which in some cases are used indescriminatly against people for minor offenses where in the past other methods would have been sucessful (dropping of litter is a prime example, these days it's a fixed penalty, in the past it would have been an instruction to pick it up and something more serious if this wasn't obeyed), yet in other cases people get small fixed penalties where courts would likely impose much bigger fines or even jail sentances.

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