Fines are too low, say police

POLICE officers feel magistrates are too lenient in Suffolk.Phil Smith, secretary of the Suffolk Police Federation, claimed courts were sometimes fining offenders less cash for their unruly behaviour than they spent on alcohol during a night out.

POLICE officers feel magistrates are too lenient in Suffolk.

Phil Smith, secretary of the Suffolk Police Federation, claimed courts were sometimes fining offenders less cash for their unruly behaviour than they spent on alcohol during a night out.

He was speaking after figures published by Suffolk Police Authority showed incidents of public disorder in the county had soared by almost 20% during the first six months of this financial year.

"Our officers are taking the trouble to arrest offenders and are getting them before the courts and it's the sentencing of the courts," Mr Smith said.

"I believe magistrates are being lenient with offenders. Some of the fines for these people are less than what they are spending on drink when they go out at night.

"If you want to promote good behaviour then the way to do that is to hit people in the pockets where it really hurts," he added.

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During the first six months of the year, police recorded 10,922 public disorder offences compared to 9,123 in the same period last year.

More than 70% of the offences related to incidents of drunkenness and disturbances, compared to 12.3% which were domestic.

Chris Bowler, director of legal services with Suffolk Magistrates' Courts Committee, declined to discuss the claim magistrates were handing out lenient fines, without seeing specific evidence of cases.

He said: "If Mr Smith can give us some examples of statistics which he says they have been too soft or fines too low, we will be pleased to discuss them.

"It seems a very bad statement not supported by any particular evidence."

Mr Smith blamed paperwork and bureaucracy as another reason for the rise, saying police officers did not have time to patrol the streets.

"The police federation have called upon the Government to cut the bureaucracy and there is a 'bureaucracy risk group' looking into that. But inevitably when we lose one form another three or four are introduced.

"Until we tackle the bureaucracy and the paperwork involved, then policing in my belief will not see the numbers of police officers on the streets that we want to see."

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