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Graffiti and Community Punishment

Tagging is a big problem across the city. It appears that the government do not believe in prosecuting taggers unless they have done damage of £5,000. The problem is that there is a simple community punishment for taggers that will deter tagging - clear it up.

This is not about locking up a tagger for years. It is simply making them clear up their mess. However, the government won't even do this.

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): In Birmingham perhaps £1 million a year, and in my constituency perhaps £100,000 a year, is spent on clearing up graffiti tagging, yet it seems to be the Government’s policy that unless someone does more than £5,000-worth of damage, no more than a caution is necessary. Can we have a debate about how we can
deter youths from tagging, perhaps by making them clear up the mess that they create?

Mr. Straw: I can tell the hon. Gentleman what we will have a debate about as soon as possible—Liberal Democrats saying one thing here and a very different thing in their constituencies. Time and again they criticise us for tough sentences and for introducing more offences, and now this hon. Gentleman stands up to say that we should be doing more, not less. I hope that he will talk to his leader and to those who speak on home affairs for the Liberal Democrat party, and explain to his constituents how time and again he votes for soft policies here, and then parades himself in Birmingham as being in favour of harder policies.

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The Labour approach is to continually go on about us "voting for soft policies". As far as I am concerned requiring that we only punish the guilty is not "soft" it is right. The party did not vote against Anti Social Behaviour Orders. It is sensible to use more community punishments, the example above is a good example. That is not a "soft" policy.

In Yardley there have been two cases recently where people should have received longer sentences for driving offences and one case where someone given a sentence for arson should not have received such a sentence.

The system is in a mess. Meaningless rhetoric does not help in solving the problems.

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