Think Tanks


19 Jul 2010 07:49:00

Volume of hate legislation is threatening freedom of speech, warns Civitas

A New Inquisition: religious persecution in Britain today is a new Civitas report written by the former Head of Religious Studies at the University of Newcastle. The report warns that the increasing volume and complexity of 'hate' legislation is making it dangerous for people to discuss religion in the way they once did.

The volume of legislation: "There are now more than 35 Acts of Parliament, 52 Statutory Instruments, 13 Codes of Practice, 3 Codes of Guidance and 16 European Commission Directives which bear on 'discrimination'. And most recently, the Single Equality Act was passed by Parliament in April 2010. Yet legal definitions of 'hatred' are elusive. A government action plan states: 'A (religious) hate crime is a criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a persons religion or perceived religion.'. In addition, 'hatred' is not only presented as an offence on its own account, but can also be seen as something which aggravates ordinary public order offences. When an ordinary offence is aggravated by 'hatred' based on race, religion, gender, or age, then the sentence too is 'aggravated' (i.e. increased)."

Burden of proof reversed: "To demonstrate the oppressive oddity of judicial attempts to regulate religious hatred, Jon Davies describes the 2009 case of Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, owners of the Bounty House Hotel in Liverpool. Following a discussion between the Vogelenzangs and a guest at their hotel, Mrs Erica Tazi, about the respective merits of her religion (Islam) and theirs (Christianity), Mrs Tazi made a formal complaint to the Merseyside police about what she said were offensive remarks made by the Vogelenzangs... whilst by long-established practice the Vogelenzangs should have been regarded as innocent until proven guilty: '[There was a] public presumption of culpability... the local NHS authority [which provided 80 per cent of the Bounty House income] cancelled their bookings'."

Free conversation about religion is discouraged: "When Judge Richard Clancy dismissed the case against the Vogelenzangs in December 2009, he commented that it might be best for individuals not to engage in discussions about religion! ...It becomes "wise" to "be careful", to restrict the compass of what we say about what we believe, or do not believe, or about what others believe or do not or should not believe, and to turn what were once vigorous public conversations into a frightened, if safe, if amiable and fundamentally humourless chat about small and dwindling things."

Civil society once regulated differences of opinion: "Throughout most of human history the suppression of unwelcome opinions has been the norm. Therefore, open societies in which we try to settle our differences without violence have been a great human achievement. For some centuries we in this country have been accustomed to dealing with such matters 'amongst ourselves', in a public sphere regulated by our own good sense and law legitimised by general consent and softened by a live-and-let-live ethos."

More here.

12 Jul 2010 10:47:30

Centre for Social Justice sets out tough approch to get addicts off drugs and alcohol

Ken Clarke recently caused a flurry when he said that short sentences should be scrapped.  The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), which this morning published a Green Paper on Criminal Justice and Addiction, agrees with him - as the paper makes clear.

The media may thus pick up this one element of the report, causing some to claim that the CSJ's "soft on crime".  A fairer reading is that the proposals set out on the Green Paper, viewed as a whole, represent "tough love", inspired by the compassion-imbued, Christianity-inspired vision characteristic of the institution.

Key recommendations include -

  • Scrapping the National Treatment Agency for drug addicts and replacing it with an Addiction Recovery Board charged with getting addicts off drugs and alcohol through, for instance, greater use of pioneering recovery communities.
  • A zero-tolerance approach by the police to anti-social behaviour with every officer given the freedom to exercise common-sense and discretion and intervene immediately to nip in the bud loutish behaviour.
  • Electing new crime and justice commissioners to bring control of local policing back into local hands.
  • Abolishing the expensive, bureaucratic and remote National Offender Management System (NOMS) and replacing it with local trusts working closely with communities and elected police commissioners.
  • A renewed assault on drug and alcohol use in prison to include tougher enforcement through the greater use of sniffer dogs and drug testing and rehousing inmates in secure community rehabilitation centres.
  • A second chance Act to enable and assist people with a criminal record to find stable employment

The proposals sound like a mix of greater localism, a prison crackdown on illegal drugs and a transformation of the state agencies that deal with rehabilitation.

Paul Goodman

6 Jun 2010 08:46:10

One-in-six prisoners are receiving drug substitutes, calculates Policy Exchange

Screen shot 2010-06-06 at 08.43.45 As already discussed by Max Chambers on CentreRight, Policy Exchange has published a report that finds that "one in six prisoners at any one time is receiving daily doses of a heroin substitute medicine." That is equivalent to "an estimated 73,000 prisoners over the course of a year whose drug habits are effectively being maintained by the state."

Over the years argues the report - Coming Clean - drug substitution programmes have ceased to be temporary instruments for transitioning prisoners off their habits and have become permanent. One side-effect of the scale of in-prison drug medication has been the creation of a new trade of methadone and similar drugs among prisoners.

The PX report argues that "longer-term prisoners should not merely be ‘encouraged’ to become drug-free during their sentence; it should be expected of them and be a condition of parole."

The situation is complicated by a 2006 court ruling that short-term detoxification could amount to "inhuman or degrading treatment".

Full PX press release. Full publication.

9 Mar 2010 12:13:10

'Poor people need civil liberties too'

Damian Green MP, Shadow Home Affairs Minister, gave a speech to Respublica last week that argued that civil liberties were not a middle class issue but concerned all classes, not least the poor. Extracts from his remarks are published below.

"There are many aspects of the modern Conservative Party which are significant changes from the Conservatism of recent years. Some of these changes are rediscoveries of the best aspects of historic Conservatism, and one of the most important is our determination to help the poorest and most disadvantaged. You can call this One Nation Conservatism, Tory Reform, Compassionate Conservatism or even Red Toryism, but whatever the name it represents the same decent instinct: that we have a duty to help those who need help, and that such help is the mark of a civilised society.

An essential part of the help we need to give the disadvantaged is the personal space, ability to control their own lives and freedom from the dictates of a nannying state that add up to what we call “civil liberties.” On the surface this is a counter-intuitive argument. Surely civil liberties are only of concern to a few middle-class do-gooders with more compassion than sense? Surely what the people living on our toughest estates demand is a more controlled society to protect them from their neighbours? Civil liberties, the argument runs, are a luxury item for politicians, not to be contemplated in a recession when fear of crime and disorder is rampant.

Continue reading "'Poor people need civil liberties too'" »

8 Feb 2010 07:00:00

The Centre for Social Justice announces new work programmes on reoffending and Britain's ageing population

Later today Iain Duncan Smith will unveil a new work programme for his Centre for Social Justice. In an advance press release the former Tory leader lists some of the challenges he hopes to address.

Citing research data Mr Duncan Smith highlights crime...

  • Nearly four in five teenagers leaving custody go on to commit a further crime, according to the latest figures.
  • And 69% of those completing community sentences also reoffend.

...and Britain's ageing population:

  • The fastest growing age group in the country is the over-80s, which now make up 4.5% of the population or 2.75 million. This has increased from 2.8 per cent or 1.57 million over the past 25 years.
  • The numbers of pensioners are around 11 million or 19% of the population. This is expected to increase to 15 million in 20 years.
  • Some 2.5 million pensioners are living below the poverty line and nearly a quarter of single female pensioners have no savings at all – compared with one fifth of single male pensioners.

2 Nov 2009 16:32:00

Reforming the criminal justice system


"Order in the Court - restoring trust through local justice" (PDF)

Authors: Centre for Social Justice Courts and Sentencing Working Group chaired by Martin Howe QC

Publication date: 2 November 2009

This report makes a series of recommendations on the reform of magistrates' courts, the probabation service and prisons. It also addresses issues central to the criminal justice system such as sentencing and the rights of victims. In addition the report looks into the treatment of criminals with addictions and mental health problems. The authors suggest a series of proposals to make the criminal justice system fairer and to enable local people to have more say in the process.

21 Aug 2009 16:26:00

Problem-solving justice in the UK

Policy Exchange

"Lasting Change or Passing Fad? Problem Solving Justice in England and Wales"(PDF)

Authors: Greg Berman, Aubrey Fox and Ben Ullmann (Editor)

Publication date: 21 August 2009

This paper looks at the US concept of "problem-solving justice" and whether it can be effectively transposed in the UK. Consideration is given to its likely impact on the rights of victims of crime, the behaviour of offenders and improving public safety.

30 Mar 2009 13:36:00

Creating a Police Force to be reckoned with


"A Force to be Reckoned With - A Police Report by the Police Reform Working Group"(PDF)

Authors: The Centre for Social Justice Police Reform Working Group, chaired by Ray Mallon.

Publication date: 30 March 2009

This report looks at reforming Britain's police force in order to create a safer, more law-abiding nation. Key recommendations include setting up Interventionist Neighbourhood Teams with a commitment to intervene in instances of disorder, elected Crime and Justice Commissioners for each Police Force area and a greater emphasis on restorative justice and victim's rights.

1 Mar 2009 14:33:00

New proposals for the reform of Britain's prisons


"Locked up Potential - a strategy for reforming prisons and rehabilitating prisoners"(PDF)

Authors: The Centre for Social Justice Prison Reform Working Group, chaired by Jonathan Aitken

Publication date: March 2009

An in-depth report containing 70 policy recommendations for the reform of Britain's failing prison system. Key recommendations include localising the management of the prison system by abolishing the National Offender Management Service and replacing it with a network of Community Prison and Rehabilitation Trusts, scrapping the Titan prison programme and instead building five Mitson Academy model prisons, and making sweeping changes to prison rehabilitation to reduce re-offending.

12 Feb 2009 16:16:00

Ways to defeat street gang violence in Britain


"Dying to Belong - An In-depth Review of Street Gangs in Britain"(PDF)

Authors: The Centre for Social Justice Gangs Working Group, chaired by Simon Antrobus

Publication date: 12 February 2009

The report states there has been a significant increase in gang culture and associated violence over the past decade. Around 6% of 10-19 year olds belong to a gang and half of the murders committed by young people in London during 2007 were gang-related. Solutions suggested include setting up a Gang Prevention Unit within the Cabinet Office and designated Gang Prevention Zones. The authors recommend greater use of the charitable sector to break down barriers between the police and young people. Furthermore, longer term objectives to prevent gang violence include Early Intervention and addressing family breakdown.