I was quite intrigued at the newly elected police comissioner David Lloyd’s idea to charge anyone who spends a night in the cells. Firstly, it was quite ammusing to hear that he’d asked his constituency for their opinions on the plans before even finding out if it would be legal! Somehow I feel that delightful piece of legislation called the human rights act would quickly put at stop to any such brainwaves after a quick once over by lawyers (not that I’m completely against it, but the current version needs improvement as it is prone to abuse, although why anyone really has a right to anything I do not know, but that’d best be argued in a seperate post methinks).
The second reason this story instantly grabbed my attention is that he said on radio station LBC that a charge of £400 would be sufficient. £400?! I’ve been looking at hotels in paris recently and that much money would get me 2 nights for 2 people in a double room plus breakfast in a 4 start hotel mere metres from the centre of the city! So why on earth one night in a 6 by 8 foot concrete box wiith only a thin matress for comfort would be equivlant to such a price tag beats me.
Then there’s the moral issues. What if the person was later found innocent of whatever crime they were arrested for? Should they still have to pay? Common sense would say no. What if the person cannont afford to pay or is on state benefits? Perhaps a suitable alternative would be a set number of hours of community service. Yet this leads to the question of whether a blanket charge should be used, or if a tiered charge would be more appropriate, because £400 to someone on £50,000+ a year is nothing compared to the same charge for someone who earns something close to the minimum wage, and how many hours of community service would this equate to? Should parents have to pay if their under 18 children spend a night there? Maybe you straight away think yes, but why should they be punished when they didn’t do anything? Although parents are responsible for their children, short of permanently locking them in their rooms, there is not a lot they can do about how their child behaves in their absence.
Furthermore, is it right to punish someone twice for the same thing, which is effectively what this charge is? Yes, it may be a deterrant from relatively minor crimes like being drunk and disorderly, but not only do those arrested have to suffer once by staying in uncomfortable conditions overnight, they then must pay for the privelege! Okay, they may deserve it, but I thought it the 21st century we are better than the times when we’d enjoy burning people at the stake.
Lastly, it could, sadly, be used by a few poice officers and council members (anyone who believes there are large organisations in the world without at least one corrupt member must be kidding themselves) as a money making scheme in these austere times. Admittedly the money would go straight back into the police budget, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. A better way to increase the budget would be to go directly to the government, even if the chances of success are slim, but if enough people signed a petition for it then it might stand a chance of being heard.
So, what do you think about this scheme? Are you glad someone has thought of it or do you have your doubts?