''Take £25/wk off offenders on benefits''
31 October 2011
From 2013 when the universal credit comes into operation, courts will be given powers to take up to £25 a week of benefits off convicted offenders, the Prime Minister has announced. This is five times the current amount that can be docked.
Claiming that the existing system was too soft and sent out the wrong signals to potential offenders, David Cameron. And the Labour Party agreed that people should be made to pay for their crimes, irrespective of whether they are claiming state benefits.
"People need to understand if they commit a crime they will face the consequences," Cameron said. "The system as it stands at the moment is far too soft and does not always send the right signals. If you commit a crime and you are on benefits, you can no longer expect to get away with paying the bare minimum."
The government's action is said to be partly influenced by the recent riots where it was reported that 40 per cent of people who appeared before magistrates were on some kind of benefit – 35 per cent of them were on out-of-work benefit.
The Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: "The PM and I were clear that we would look at all parts of the benefit system and ensure that people feel the full effects of their actions.
"I do not want to be in the business of leaving people without any money to support themselves but, equally, individuals must know that they cannot commit crime that impacts on the livelihoods and the communities of hard-working people without consequences."
Shadow Work and Pension Secretary Liam Byrne commented: "Labour introduced tough welfare reforms in government, and we've said that the system should encourage responsibility at the top and the bottom. It is important that criminals face tough consequences for their crimes. We will look at the detail of this proposal but my view is straightforward. We should be giving the courts the maximum possible freedom to make sure people pay for their crimes whether they're on benefits or not."
However, some critics of the scheme have said it would hit the poorest people hardest and wouldn't be fair, even if they do commit crimes that devastate people's lives. Labour's Anne Begg, chair of the work and pensions committee, said: "My biggest fear is that it will leave people destitute. Twenty-five pounds is a huge chunk to take. Part of the reason so many people default is that they struggle to pay the fine in the first place."
And Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "There's no evidence that taking additional money like this after somebody's committed a crime from their benefits would deter someone from going shoplifting, for example. The big deterrent is getting caught, or the fear of getting caught, not what happens afterwards. So, this is an announcement that is made up, it's not based on evidence, and it won't have an impact."
Don't make me laugh, leave them destitute? Have the people who defend these criminals listened to their victims? People have been traumatised and the punishment is what, a slap on the wrist?
I've seen offenders in courts and heard magistrates say 'This is the 21st time you have been at this court', which means nothing is working. Hell, it's worth a try and at the very least that will be £100 a month of public money per offender that will be saved and maybe spent on something more useful such as caring for the elderly,the vulnerable and the sick.
Angry - Cheshire