Criminals will rebuild communities they've harmed, Labour announces
Steve Reed, the shadow justice secretary will unveil Labour’s plan to increase the number of community sentences which have halved in the last decade under the Conservatives.
Labour said that the number of these sentences, which are for lower-level crimes such as assault or theft, have fallen due to magistrates no longer having the confidence that they will be enforced in the community.
Mr Reed will announce in a speech in London that Sir Keir Starmer’s government would give power to new Community and Victim Payback Boards, which will make sure sentences are carried out, and choose unpaid work that best suits the community.
Currently unpaid work done by offenders typically involves things such as removing graffiti, but Labour would expand the types of work which can be done, which could include work currently done by overstretched council services.
The party said that the victims of the crime will also have a role in choosing the punishment for the criminal.
Mr Reed will also announce tougher penalties for fly-tippers and “clean up squads” where offenders will be made to clear up litter and vandalism that they have caused to “clean up their own mess”.
Speaking about anti-social behaviour, Steve Reed will say: “Anti-social behaviour can leave communities feeling broken and powerless. It leads to a spiral of social and economic decline that a Labour government will not tolerate.
“As Justice Secretary, I will strengthen community sentences to tackle antisocial behaviour and petty crime. Under this government their use has fallen by a half because courts no longer have confidence sentences will ever be carried out.
In response, Justice Minister Damian Hinds said: “Labour’s record proves they are soft on crime and soft on criminals – Steve Reed, Yvette Cooper, and Keir Starmer have consistently voted against extra resources for our police and stronger sentences to lock up violent offenders.”
It comes as part of Labour’s week of crime and policing announcements which seeks to put Tony Blair’s mantra of “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” into a modern context.
Yesterday, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said Labour would put an extra 13,000 neighbourhood police officers and PCSOs back on Britain’s streets, “paid for with £360m delivered from our shared procurement plan”.
The plan would see patrols restored back to town centres, and would ensure “communities and residents know who to turn to when things go wrong, with new statutory responsibilities on forces to protect and deliver neighbourhood policing”.
Ms Cooper said that the pledge will see thousands of officers like Happy Valley’s Catherine Cayward, the BBC crime drama set in West Yorkshire.
It comes as the Government today announced that Nightingale Courts, temporarily set up in response to the pandemic in 2020, would be extended for another year in order to tackle the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system.
24 courtrooms will be kept open for 2023, after the size of the backlog in crown courts almost doubled from the end of 2019 to the end of last year with over 60,000 waiting to be heard.
Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary said: “We are determined to provide the swift justice that victims deserve, and Nightingale courts have a vital role to play as our justice system continues to recover from the unprecedented impact of the pandemic and last year’s strike action.
“The Crown Court backlog is now falling once again, and the continued use of these courtrooms will help to drive it down even further.”