The shadow home secretary, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP spoke today at the Conservative Party conference. He oputlines some of the plans he would implement as Home Secretary in the event of the Conservative Party being elected to Government in the election next year.
Let me tell you a story about life in Britain today. About one of our soldiers in Afghanistan. He was home on leave In his local town centre on Saturday night. Out of the blue he was attacked and beaten by two drunk youths. The police were called. The two attackers were arrested.
And let off with a caution. Not tried. Not put behind bars. Not even given a community sentence. Just given a legal slap on the wrist.
Time and again the troublemakers just seem to get away with it. The gangs, the drunks, even those who commit acts of violence. They just get away with it.
Criminals aren't caught because the police are stuck at desks doing paperwork. Or because they aren’t listening to the communities they are supposed to protect.
Violent offenders, sex offenders and heroin dealers get off with cautions because it’s the least hassle option for police and the Crown Prosecution Service. And even if they go to prison, the Government releases them automatically after a fraction of their sentence to reoffend on the same streets as before.
People think our criminal justice system is broken.
Worrying too much about the criminals and not enough about the justice.
It makes me furious. It makes you furious. And law abiding, decent, people are asking - who’s looking after me?
Well, my message to them is that a Conservative Government will start looking after you.
That’s why need radical reform in every part of the system. The police. The CPS. The courts. Prisons. Probation. We need to sort it out, so there's no more excuses, no more buck-passing, no more nonsense. We need a criminal justice system that is focused on fighting crime and that is exactly what we plan to deliver.
But today I want to focus on the antisocial behaviour that blights so many of our communities. And the drunken disorder that so often causes it. No one thinks that the Government’s 24 hour drinking regime has led to the creation of a “continental café culture”.
We’re not talking about stopping people enjoying a few drinks in the pub. But things have gone far too far. Our town centres on a Friday and Saturday night can be battle zones for our police. Local parks and local estates are blighted by gangs of young troublemakers…. fuelled by alcohol given to them by irresponsible adults.
I have talked to people up and down the country whose lives are being ruined by antisocial behaviour. It’s time we stood up for them.
Last week in Brighton Ministers announced tweaks to the system so they could claim to be doing something about it. They aren’t. We will.
So let me tell you how we’re going to tackle binge drinking and antisocial behaviour.
We’ll start with the problem of fourteen year olds hanging around with bottles of super-strength beers or ciders. It’s much too easy for them to get very drunk quickly and cheaply.
So let me today give you more detail of our plan to introduce big increases in the tax on super strength alcohol.
We will increase the price of a four pack of super strength lager by £1.33. We will more than double tax on super strength cider. And our planned increase on alcopops will raise the price of a large bottle by £1.50. These tax changes will not hit responsible drinkers.
The ordinary pint in the pub will not be affected. and there’ll be exemptions for some local traditional products. But we’ll call time on the drinks that fuel antisocial behaviour.
Then there are supermarkets which boost the sales of other products by selling alcohol below cost price. That also fuels Britain’s binge drinking culture. So we will ban them from doing so.
We’ll tear up this Government’s lax licensing regime. Right now virtually anyone can get a licence to sell alcohol. We even have all night takeaways selling more drink to people as they stagger home from the pub. We will change that.
Local councils will have the power to stop town centres being taken over by pubs, clubs and off-licences. We’ll give communities a right of veto over new licences in their area.
There’ll also be tough new rules for existing licensed premises. Councils will be able to restrict opening hours. There’ll be strict penalties for pubs and off-licences that break the rules. Much bigger fines if they sell to under age drinkers. If they do it again, we’ll close them for a few days as a penalty. And if it still happens, we’ll strip them of their licence permanently.
There’s also the huge cost of policing areas that are already dominated by pubs and clubs and off-licences. Under a Conservative Government late night problem premises will pay more for their licence. So we can pay more for policing in our town centres to tackle the blight of antisocial behaviour after closing time.
I know some of those in the drinks industry will complain about the impact of these changes. But I think there are times when it’s right to put the interests of communities ahead of the interests of business.
We’ve also got to deal with those who commit the acts of antisocial behaviour and disorder as well. Right now they can offend again and again and just get away with it.
Our criminal justice system is sending all the wrong messages. We need real punishments for young troublemakers. Not to send them home with a rap over the knuckles. That’s why Dominic and I are working on a range of instant punishments for antisocial behaviour.
Like grounding the offenders for up to a month. Or making them do community punishments, like cleaning up local parks. Real consequences for the trouble they’ve caused. But that’s for low level offences.
For the more serious incidents, things must be different. We were all shocked by the tragic case of Fiona Pilkington. But let’s be clear. What happened to her wasn’t antisocial behaviour. It was criminal.
The people who did that to her should be behind bars.
There are too many serious offenders getting away with it. Our police are too inclined to take the easy option.
Giving someone a caution or a fixed penalty notice means box ticked, case closed, another solved crime. But we know the system is being misused.
Not just for the young men who attacked that soldier. Or the others who get violent on a Friday or Saturday night. But when serious offenders, like people carrying knives, also get off with a caution. When they should be behind bars.
And would you believe this. Last week I met the commanding officer of a local PCSO who had been assaulted by a gang member, and then thrown down a staircase. He was given an eighty pound fixed penalty notice. That is outrageous.
It is the sign of a system that is bust.
I think anyone who assaults a police officer should end up in court facing time behind bars.
Then there was the extraordinary claim by a senior police officer, at the inquest into the death of Fiona Pilkington, that the police are no longer responsible for antisocial behaviour. What complete nonsense. So it’s time for real change.
It’s time for a new deal with our police. We’ll deal with the things that frustrate them. We’ll get rid of the mountains of bureaucracy that make it easier to cut corners. We’ll provide them with proper protection against violence. We’ll get rid of the target culture that makes it easier to issue a caution than to prosecute. And we’ll give them back more power to charge criminals themselves.
But in return we want real action against the troublemakers. And we want them to be more accountable to the communities they serve. The next Conservative Government will get rid of Britain’s caution culture. And will demand real moves to tackle antisocial behaviour. It’s time justice was really done on our streets.
Ladies and Gentlemen. There are two other big priorities for a Conservative Home Office.
The first is our immigration system. For twelve years it has been a complete shambles. Uncontrolled immigration. Widespread abuse of our student visa system. Human traffickers exploiting the vulnerable for profit. So let me make things clear today.
A Conservative government will be robust in the way it controls immigration. There will be no open door to Britain. Instead we will have a system that treats people fairly and decently. That welcomes those who should be able to come and live here. Like the Gurkhas who have done so much for our country.
But we’ll close the gaping hole in our student visa system. We’ll crack down on the traffickers. Britain will have its own, specialist border police force. We will set an annual cap on the number of people who can come and live and work here. I will not tolerate more of the chaos of the past few years.
The Home Office has another key responsibility. The security of our people and of our nation. To take the lead in the battle against terrorism. And the fight against an ideology of hate and violence. An ideology that damages the reputation of decent, law abiding British Muslims as well as threatening life and limb. And let’s be clear. That ideology wants to destroy the civil liberties that make this country what it is. No Government should allow them to do so, and the way this Government has eroded those liberties is shameful and must be reversed.
Our police and security services have done a magnificent job in protecting us against the terrorist threat. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. But we are still not tough enough on those who spread a doctrine of hate in Britain. So I will immediately ban Hiz b’ut Tahrir, and any other group that actively incites hatred and violence.
We also have extremists using video links to hold meetings with banned preachers of hate from overseas who urge violence against our society. If I am Home Secretary the people who organise those meetings will be arrested and prosecuted. Under this Government the extremists have been free to protest on our streets and incite violence and hatred in the most blatant ways.
We cannot and we will not allow this to continue.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
What people want from the Home Office is a no-nonsense approach to the crime and disorder problems in their communities. They understand that those problems are complex.
That we need to get to grips with the social problems that foster crime …. ….as well as with the crime and antisocial behaviour itself. But right now they are hugely frustrated.
They feel let down by the police. They feel let down by the courts. They feel let down by the Government.
Above all they believe that under Labour those who commit crime and antisocial behaviour are just getting away with it.
And if we win, it will stop.