Warning: This post was published more than 11 years ago.
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From the Beeb’s article on Blair’s ludicrous ‘Respect’ laws:
For example, somebody spitting at an old lady in the street would not be prosecuted because it used too much police time and the only result was a fine.
Mr Blair accepted that on-the-spot fines for some offences reversed the principle that people were innocent until proven guilty.
But he argued: “To get on top of 21st century crime we need to accept that what works in practice, in reality on the streets, is a measure of summary powers with right of appeal alongside the traditional court processes.”
Spitting in someone’s face is a great many things, first among which must be disgusting. It is not, however, a 21st century crime. Or does Mr Blair think that this is some newly-evolved ability?
I suspect he doesn’t realise that this provides the perfect example of why legislating in this way will not foster a culture of respect. In times gone by, people didn’t refrain from spitting at old ladies because they thought they might be prosecuted. They did it because they had respect for their elders. Now, respect for elders, and for authority, seems to have been lost in certain minorities of the community. So an authority for whom a youngster has no respect officially saying “Don’t spit in grannies’ faces or we’ll fine you” if anything provides an incentive to spit at them. It doesn’t help the matter.
Respect works two ways. Just as there are sections of the youth community who spit at grannies (something I’ve never personally seen or experience), there are equally antisocial grannies (who I’ve personally experienced, and who have hit, pushed, and shoved me in bus queues). To focus solely on the youth and try and foster respect in youth culture misses the point entirely. And to try and foster a culture through legislation is ludicrous.
And just when you thought this plan couldn’t come any further out of the tree, Mr Blair announces that he wants to reduce crime by making people homeless:
People could be evicted from their own homes for three months if they are nuisance neighbours, under a new action plan for Tony Blair’s “respect agenda”.
Eviction by court order would be a “last resort”, says the government but it could, for example, be used against students who annoy their neighbours with loud music.
Well, I guess it’s inventive, if nothing else.