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NEW RESTRICTIONS ON ON-THE-SPOT FINES

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Police have been told they cannot issue on-the-spot fines to anyone who is too drunk to understand what is going on...
Police have been told they cannot issue on-the-spot fines to anyone who is too drunk to understand what is going on, reported The Sunday Telegraph (p1).

Fixed penalties for anti-social behaviour were introduced last month with great fanfare. They were hailed as 'swift, simple and effective justice' that would reduce paperwork and enable police to spend more time on the streets. However, new rules issued to officers last week make it almost impossible for police to issue the fixed penalties. Officers were advised they could not hand out the fines for a long list of reasons, including the offender being so drunk that he could not understand what was happening.

Under the new legislation, the police are empowered to issue£80 fines for wasting police time, making hoax fire calls, harassment or throwing fireworks. They can also be given£40 penalties for being drunk and disorderly, trespass on a railway, throwing stones at a train and drinking in a prohibited area.

The new guidance states, however, that for many offences, including drunken behaviour, officers are instructed to take the offender's fingerprints and DNA and to issue the fines in the presence of 'an appropriate adult'. This means the offender must be taken to a police station, thereby eliminating the 'instant' aspect of any penalty.

The guidance also makes clear that the fines should be issued only to 16 and 17-year-olds for a 'one-off single incident', and only then if officers are sure they have enough evidence to secure a court conviction. Far from issuing fines on the spot, the guidance urges officers to go through a lengthy process in a police station. Youths are given 21days in which to decide whether to pay up or opt for a court hearing.

The Association of Chief Police Officers defended the scheme at the weekend, calling it 'very promising'.

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