Tougher Sentences for Street Brawlers

Those people working on the front-line have regular cause to discuss the sentences handed down for anti-social and violent behaviour and they generally tend to agree that the deterrent, for violence especially, does not seem to be sufficient.

The government has now suggested a set of proposals to change the framework of sentencing for violent offences through the Sentencing Council.

So the headlines they seem to be looking for are that there will be tougher sentences for offences where the consequential harm is greater; on the surface a sensible proposal. The political point I suspect is for the ‘Tough on Crime’ headline to be possible alongside the ‘Austerity’ headline, gained from fewer people actually going to prison.

It seems like an untenable position; surely if you are tough on crime then more people will be sentenced to custodial sentences. Well that would be true if it were not change at both ends of the spectrum which is proposed; so where serious bodily harm is caused longer harsher sentencing and at the lower end of the scale where they are deemed to be minor assault, less stringent sentencing.

I would imagine that this is only going to cause more difficulty for door supervisors, security guards, police and others on the front line, who face the abuse, aggression and violence on a daily basis. Which takes be back to the debate they all have, it normally goes something like this:

“The judges, magistrates and CPS as well as the politicians are protected from the vile nature of abuse people on the front line have to put up with and deal with. When they see offenders weeks or months later, dressed in their Sunday best, on their best behaviour, having developed a suitable cover story, with legal counsel and having been told to show ‘remorse’; it does sometimes feel like the law is weighted in their favour.”

These are also the unlucky ones, most never see the inside of a court room as charges have to be dropped for ‘lack of evidence’, where charges are dropped by a second party through laziness or fear and the many who receive fixed penalty fines equivalent to the cost of a night out or less; which hardly delivers any deterrent or comes close to covering the cost involved in their arrest...

The fact is for the front-line employees often working to the early hours of the morning and for business owners in the night-time economy, these individuals who cause so many of the problems in our town-centres are getting away with it time after time.

If the ‘sentence’ for a minor brawl is insignificant and they go unpunished as they have been, then it is only a matter of time before repeat offenders go further and really hurt somebody. The cost to town centres, businesses, our communities and the individuals involved is significant.

What in the courtroom is made to sound like a minor scuffle, at the time it takes place often has the potential to escalate into a dangerous situation. If it doesn’t, often it is because of the skills of the police and security staff involved; that doesn’t make it any less psychologically damaging or suggest that the intent to cause physical harm to another was not present.

Those on the front line need to be protected from this type of behaviour by the enforcement of strong legislation, as do responsible members of the public.

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To view the original article – Crackdown on drunken street brawlers

Source – Evening Standard 

Date – 13th October 2010

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew