Responding to the Riots: Emergency motion to conference

Sue Doughty has put together this emergency motion to conference.  It is the most recent version and any amendments which improve but don’t lengthen it should be sent to her on sue@suedoughty.plus.com.

Conference

  • Condemns without reservation  the August riots as unjustified and unjustified criminality
  • Understands the deep trauma caused to residents and businesses affected and in particular the families of those who have died.
  • Appreciates with gratitude the effective nationally co-ordinated actions taken by police and emergency services who put themselves in harms way to try to protect lives and livelihoods
  • Notes the use of private networks and  social media not only by those set on rioting, but also on a much greater and more effective basis by those  getting help to those at risk during the riots, and mobilising the clean-up operations
  • Recognises that it was the threat of arrest and prosecution due to CCTV images as well as higher police concentration, rather than political speeches, that  brought the disturbances to an end

Conference notes with concern:

  • The temporary loss of control of the streets by the forces of law and order to gangs of looters and arsonists, suggesting a shortage of trained and equipped officers
  • The large number of lengthy custodial sentences which put much more pressure on our already overcrowded prisons,  and the well-established finding that prison is not an effective way of rehabilitating non-violent offenders nor of preventing re-offending
  •  a note circulated to magistrates and judges urged them to ignore sentencing guidelines and that many sentences then had to be reduced on appeal
  • The proposal that social housing  eviction rules should be extended beyond the current basis of causing a nuisance to other tenants;  that this would not only be unfair to other innocent family members but would also discriminate against social housing tenants compared with those in private housing tenants or owner occupiers
  • That the unemployment rate for adults aged 16 – 24 not in training or education  is now over 20%
  • The absence in many communities of youth facilities and youth leaders offering an alternative to gang culture

Conference believes that:

  • Sentencing is a matter for the courts, not the media or politicians, and that magistrates and judges must take into account not only the crime, the impact on the defendant and their family and the deterrent effect of any sentence on others
  • The Prime Minister and Home Secretary were correct to say that, in respecting the separation of powers and supporting the rule of law, politicians should not criticise judges for convictions or sentences;  and further believes, in order to retain credibility on the subject, that they should apply the same principle to Human Rights judgements
  • Additional powers for the police, the courts or the Government to censor, restrict access to   or close public social networking sites in response to riots beyond the current existing arrangements are neither justified nor practical
  • The reduction in the provision of services, especially at a time of high youth unemployment, and the increase in gang culture leaves young people more vulnerable to an antisocial way of life
  • The imposition of curfews and dispersals would be counterproductive, breed resentment among young people and be seen as an act of collective punishment

Conference calls for

  • Support for the creation of the ‘riot payback scheme’ using restorative justice to make offenders help build up their local communities and to enable those who have been harmed to confront offenders with the impact of their actions.
  • The inclusion in the scheme of those convicted and imprisoned on their release from prison to ensure that as many offenders as possible do not re-offend
  • The imposition of custodial sentences only where no other form of sentence is justified on the facts but encourages, wherever justice permits, the use of non-custodial disposals that allow the offender to maintain or undertake productive work, retain their livelihoods, homes and family ties, and thereby not be driven to future reliance on the state
  • Support for Liberal Democrat Councils who have made it clear that they are not prepared to use new powers of eviction for tenants of social housing.
  • The important work of the Probation Service in promoting rehabilitation, especially in the context of the cuts that it is undergoing and rejects any further cuts in the funding of probation and community sentences in order to spend more on prisons An independent inquiry into the riots and their underlying contributory factors to ensure that the long term response is framed in the context of knowledge and deeper understanding and not knee jerk reactions
  • The continued separation of politicians and police operational control and for there to be stronger checks and balances on any elected police commissioners by locally elected representatives than currently set out
  • A continued focus on young people, through schools and communities,  to set clear boundaries for behaviour, enable engagement with the community and prevent estrangement
  • Not only the provision of more apprenticeships, but active support for low income young people to enable them to enter the work place and to benefit from long term job employment

 

 

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5 comments on “Responding to the Riots: Emergency motion to conference
  1. Duncan Stott says:

    The phrase of the first line,”unjustified and unjustified” is very clunky. Perhaps one of the words should be “inexcusable”?

  2. Adam Corlett says:

    Conference believes “sentencing is a matter for the courts, and that magistrates and judges must take into account not only the crime [etc. ...] but calls by the media or politicians for tougher sentences”. Really? I would have thought that should say “not the media or politicians”. Do we really want to give the media – rather than the law, sentencing guidelines or judges’ views of how best to prevent future crime – more power over defendants’ lives? Or allow cabinet members to bypass parliament and call for tougher sentences to win a few votes? The very next point calls for separation of powers to be respected!

    Resisting calls by the Daily Mail for tougher sentences seems in fact like a good starting point for our party’s justice policies! What is going on here?

    I’d also note the links between this motion and the drugs policy one which calls for a review to ensure police/justice resources are directed as effectively as possible; not to mention drugs & gangs and respect for the police.

  3. Sue Doughty says:

    Thanks Duncan and Adam – there is a missing’ not’ regarding media and politicians but on the whole I’m inclined to leave out that phrase which makes the whole thing much woollier than I want. Duncan ditto. I’ll take a look at the ldv comments too and come back with something crisper.

  4. Daniel Henry says:

    Adam, you seem to be looking at an earlier draft of the motion. If you look again at the article above, you’ll notice that the passage you quoted is no longer there. :)

    I’d like to second Duncan’s suggestion to change “unjustifiable” to “inexcusable”.

  5. Daniel Henry says:

    My view on the motion at the moment is that it tries to say a bit too much. I think that the purpose of this motion should be to set out a liberal position on crime, justice and policing in the face of the knee-jerk reactionism by the media and other political parties.

    So there are clauses that I agree with but feel should be left out.
    I think we should remove the following:

    Conference is concerned:
    • That the unemployment rate for adults aged 16 – 24 not in training or education is now over 20%
    • The absence in many communities of youth facilities and youth leaders offering an alternative to gang culture

    Conference believes:
    • The reduction in the provision of services, especially at a time of high youth unemployment, and the increase in gang culture leaves young people more vulnerable to an antisocial way of life

    Conference calls for:
    • The continued separation of politicians and police operational control and for there to be stronger checks and balances on any elected police commissioners by locally elected representatives than currently set out
    • Not only the provision of more apprenticeships, but active support for low income young people to enable them to enter the work place and to benefit from long term job employment

    (Also, we’re missing a bullet point before the “calls for” clause beginning with “An independent inquiry into the riots and…”)

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