Police hail anti-lout scheme a success

By Danielle NuttallCrime CorrespondentPOLICE in Essex have hailed a pilot scheme, in which on-the-spot fines were used to target anti-social behaviour, as a success.

By Danielle Nuttall

Crime Correspondent

POLICE in Essex have hailed a pilot scheme, in which on-the-spot fines were used to target anti-social behaviour, as a success.

The county was one of four areas selected nationally where fixed penalty notices of up to £80 were issued to anyone caught behaving anti-socially.

Home Secretary David Blunkett announced yesterday the scheme would be extended across England and Wales to further crackdown on the problem.

The move attracted immediate support from Essex Police, who said on-the-spot fines had led to a reduction in paperwork and allowed officers to get back to patrolling the streets.

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Since August 12, officers in Essex have handed out 1,032 on-the-spot fines, 500 of which were £80 fines for causing harassment, alarm or distress, while 402 were £40 fines to people caught for being drunk and disorderly and 50 were fines for people drunk on a highway.

Of the 1,032 fines, 315 were handed out in the Chelmsford area, 132 in the Colchester area and 91 in the Clacton area.

A police spokesman said: “We welcomed on-the-spot fines from the off, which is why we put ourselves forward as one of the pilot areas.

“We have found it very successful because of what it's meant in terms of saving time in the preparation of court files. It means we can get officers out on the streets dealing with potentially more important issues.”

Suffolk Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter also welcomed the announcement the fixed penalty notice scheme was being rolled out across the country.

“Officers involved in the trial of this scheme found it to be an extremely useful and effective tool to help deal with anti-social behaviour,” he said.

“We are doing everything that we can to ensure that Suffolk is the safest county in the country by April 2006 and the ability to issue a fixed penalty notice will provide us with an additional method of dealing with anti-social behaviour and we welcome it.”

Mr Blunkett said the pilot schemes in Essex, West Midlands, North Wales and Croydon had shown handing out fixed penalty notices had saved police officers hours of bureaucratic form-filling.

But new Home Office figures showed by the end of January, when the trials had been running for about five months, only 53% of fines had been paid.

Of the rest, 44% had gone unpaid and offenders had been told they would receive an additional fine on top of the original sum, while 2% had asked for the penalty to be reviewed by the courts and 1% had been cancelled.