Britain should bang up the trouble-makers, but let’s turn them round, too

We need a dual track policy, which recognises the role of prison in reducing crime – as Michael Howard and David Blunkett showed – but which also places a greater emphasis (as Ken Clarke is doing) on cutting the rate of re-offending through education of all kinds. We are working with the Justice Department to expand the work of the Heron unit in Feltham, where re-offending rates have been brought down from about 80 per cent to about 20 per cent. Bang them up, in other words, but turn them round, too.

Now the Treasury will rightly protest that all this is expensive; and that is why it is time to look at cheap and highly effective ways of both cutting re-offending and cutting offending in the first place. We need to look much harder at the role of alcohol in crime, and above all in violent crime.

I have talked to many London doctors over the past few years, and they have repeatedly stressed the horror and expense of the current booze culture. Go to any A and E on a Saturday night, and you will see the victims and perpetrators of drink-fuelled violence. They are being treated at considerable cost to the taxpayer, and at the moment we have very few tools – short of prison – to stop the drunken thug from going out and doing it again.

For more than a year we in London's City Hall have been advocating a scheme that has been highly successful in America, and that needs to be tried out in London as soon as possible.

It works as follows. If you are convicted of a drink-related violent offence then you may stay out of prison – if and only if you stay off the booze. You may think this is impossible to enforce, but in South Dakota they have come up with a very effective tool. You simply require the individual to take a breath-test twice a day. You make it a condition of his (and it is normally his) parole that he must report twice a day to a police station and prove that he has not been drinking; otherwise he is arrested and locked up. And it doesn't cost the state a thing, because you make sure that the – relatively low – cost of the breathalyser test is met by the offender.

In South Dakota they have had 16,000 people involved in the trial, and the system has been so effective in preventing repeat offending that the prison population has come down by 14 per cent. That is a big financial saving – and all from finding a way to keep the drunken thugs sober. Of course, we should continue with other programmes to get people off alcohol, of the kind that are championed by Alcohol Concern.

But this one is cheap, and it has real teeth. I have to say that we have not been lucky so far in our representations to government. Kit Malthouse, deputy mayor for policing, has encountered a certain amount of what I will politely call bureaucratic resistance.

Alcohol plays a big part in domestic violence; tough anti-alcohol measures can help bring down crime, as we have seen on public transport, where a booze ban has been accompanied by a 30 per cent fall in crime statistics. If we won't lock them up, and we want to cut drunken violence, then sobriety tests must be part of the answer. We need to pilot the scheme now.

10 thoughts on “Britain should bang up the trouble-makers, but let’s turn them round, too”

  1. Boris JOhnson: too cowardly to take on the motorists of west London?

    Boris Johnson’s new fares package won’t put a song in the hearts of those less gainfully employed either. Shop assistants who trek in from Barking to the West End will now have to find £42.60 from their weekly wages for their seven-day pass instead of £39.40, or about £140 more a year. Even the casual bus-user will note with a frown that a single journey has gone up to £1.40. It was just 90p when Johnson came to power claiming he’d be a “value-for-money” mayor.

    His political opponents are making merry with his fourth fares hike in a row, each one averaging 2% above inflation, and a good case can be made that Johnson could and should have limited the pain this time round. But whoever runs City Hall in the coming years will struggle to make transport budget ends meet without raiding the pockets of passengers who are already charged more to use public transport than their counterparts in other large European cities.

    Our old friend “the cuts” is a big culprit here: the coalition has coughed up for London’s big infrastructure projects but still hacked back Transport for London’s grant to a degree that even the non-stop sackings and shelving of projects that have marked the Johnson years cannot fully compensate for. There’s little sign of that changing any time soon. Necessity being the mother of invention, we should be taking a radical and realistic new look at fixing London’s transport ills.

    The argument for more and higher road-pricing in the capital has the dream virtue of marrying flawless market logic with economic, social and environmental improvements. Informed estimates say it could save business at least £2bn in costly gridlock time and provide the same amount for improving the road network – something London motorists yearn for perennially – for those who can’t avoid using it. In addition, it would hold down public transport costs, make the streets friendlier for buses, cyclists and pedestrians and improve our dodgy air quality. These benefits could help mitigate small shopkeepers’ loss of passing motorised trade. The required technology exists. All that’s lacking is political will.

    Hindsight is not kind to the current mayor’s transport manifesto, which anticipated introducing a cycle hire scheme “at no cost to the taxpayer” (page 32), negotiating a no-strike deal with the tube unions (page 23) and “smoothing traffic flow” (page 3). The outcomes have been a “Boris Bikes” arrangement under which the tax-payer subsides a Barclays marketing campaign, more tube strikes than ever and a great deal of attention being lavished on traffic lights to no great effect.

    How about a mayor who will dispense with novelty and tinkering and instead set some serious priorities, in line with what a 21st-century big city needs? Transport for London’s own research indicates droves of potential cyclists in the capital who would embrace pedal power if they weren’t afraid of ending up dead under a truck. It’s time to give up carping about the unions, keep the gains from better road works management in proportion and get stuck in to giving cyclists and pedestrians far greater space and privilege on the roads. The police should give a harder time to bad and uninsured drivers. The populace must be persuaded that the private car, for all its joys, is more trouble than it’s worth for most journeys in the metropolis and that a road charge is just a different kind of fare – one that London could put to enormous good use.

    A city that is both car-clogged and increasingly pricey for people to get around by other mechanised means puts off investors, discourages job keeping and seeking, and makes the place harder to live in for everyone. The very mechanisms of movement that help a city thrive are threatened by the capital’s congested, over-priced status quo. If the government won’t do more to help us fix this, we’ll just have to do it for ourselves.

  2. it would seem from the comment above that the communist salamander-shagger lacks the grace to agree with an excellent suggestion from Boris. Hartley? a “nom de whinge?”

  3. Why should a few cyclists get any more space on the roads? And why must the populace be persuaded that the car is more trouble than it’s worth?
    Maybe, hartley, as Bertolt Brecht once observed, it is time for progressives like yourself to dissolve the populace and elect a new one?

  4. Are we really that surprised that offenders keep offending?

    For one,
    Whilst in prison prisons have easy access to drugs and contrary to popular belief prison wardens tend to ignore the fact they inmate smoke cannabis and take other drugs to make their jobs easier. How can we suggest that we could successfully put offenders back onto the “right road” if this is what is going on in our prisons?

    Now as we all know the recent riots have told us that there is going to shortly be a rise in the amount of crime we see in the uk.
    Why do you think that most people take to breaking the law?

    It is because half of the time they do not even know that they are doing it. So many countless rules have been passed down by the eu that i would not be surprised if leaving the toilet seat up is now punishable by law.

    Also, taxes are rising… Those that canot afford to survive on the next to nothing that our goverment believes is enough to live on… Try to find ways around the problem. We see people using illegal fuel buying cigarettes from abroad and such like all of the time. People just cannot cope anymore. We are creating the criminals in society, we ourselves are filling the prisons turning people into repeat offenders yet, we say we must take steps to stop this?

    We need to create a better britain. We need some of the change that david cameron promised us at the elections. Britain is changing yes, but not for the better.

    I would like to see a real tory government. A group of people that are interested in keeping the country afloat not in controlling our lives.

    Honestly talk of sobriety tests??? Does this really sound like a tory ideal to you? Does this sound like small government – i think not.

    Think about it this way, one night a man gets drunk, a man that would never commit violence on a night out under the influence of alcohol. Something goes wrong – maybe he is provoked or such like and he ends up in a fight. Should this one occasion make the man have to go through sobriety tests?

    Last time i checked alcohol wasnt actually illegal in this country, i am very sure it hasnt changed since then. We are becoming a controlling state and that is most certainly not what a real tory party is about.

    Honestly, it makes me laugh. Do we regulary test drug addicts that have commited drug related offences in this country? Or do we send them along to support groups to help them off of the drugs?

    I truly believe that violence is wrong be it fuelled by alcohol or by someones personality. It is not only those that drink that cause violence in fact i would hazard a guess that the majority of violence is not alcohol related. Are we going to give those that commit violence without the aid of alcohol serenity tests ???

    I belive this truly is ridiculos, argue with me if you must but i do not see how this will help matters in the slightest.

  5. …but then, I guess universal sobriety tests would go down well with the Health and Safety authoritariat and the myriad Shape-Up-Be-Like-Me gangsters whose activities have done so much to colour our lives.

    I guess it goes back to the ban on foxhunting. And if the government can pass a law to prevent British people dressing up to eradicate vermin, then it is surely only a matter of time before they will find a way to exact a tax on making love.

  6. Boris Johnson added: “If I were the Government, I would think seriously about that fuel duty stabiliser, because when it costs more to fill your tank than to fly to Rome, something is seriously wrong.”

    What an utterly silly statement.

    When a box of chocolates costs more than a transistor radio, something is seriously wrong.

    Stephen Hester of RBS owns a chalet in Verbier, Switzerland.

    Why does Boris Johnson keep speaking up for bankers’ bonuses?

    Meanwhile, the horrid Stephen Hester of RBS gets 2 million bonus of taxpayers money.

    Hester enjoys tennis, running, shooting and skiing, which for the latter he owns a chalet in Verbier, Switzerland. Hester also enjoys horse riding, as his wife is a master of fox hounds in Warwickshire: “it’s very important to keep our marriage together that I do the same as she does.”

    Bailed out Lloyds Banking Group has handed its new chief executive António Horta-Osório shares currently worth £3.6m to buy him out of pay deals at his previous employer, Spanish bank Santander.

    The annual report from Lloyds published on Wednesday also shows that the bank is pumping up to 75% of his £1.06m salary into his pension each year. He will also be handed cash of £516,000 in three equal tranches between 2011 and 2013.

    The scale of rewards outside the boardroom of the bank, which is 43% owned by the taxpayer…

    Worth recalling that Boris Johnson supports these bonuses, and has said so on numerous occasions.

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