Please note not all views expressed in the film and on the blog necessarily reflect the views of coalition members.
The self-fulfilling prophesy that's doubled our prison population,
demonised our young and costs us billions...
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Monday, 19 April 2010

Labour's 'votes for paedophiles' leaflet sparks row

A Labour candidate is embroiled in a row with the Liberal Democrats after suggesting they would give convicted murderers and paedophiles the vote.

Roger Godsiff, who is standing in Birmingham Hall Green, issued leaflets showing nursery worker Vanessa George, who was jailed for abusing children.

He defended the move, saying his opponents were evading scrutiny, but Labour have now scrapped the leaflet.

The Lib Dems said they would not give those currently in prison the vote.

However, they stressed the issue needed to be looked at following a 2005 ruling by the European Court of Rights that found the UK's ban on extending the vote to convicted prisoners was unlawful

Ministers have been consulting on how to respond to the ruling since then with critics accusing them of kicking the issue into the long grass.

High-profile cases

Leaflets distributed under Mr Godsiff's name asked: "Do you want convicted murderers, rapists and paedophiles to be given the vote? The Lib Dems do".

The leaflets contained pictures of a number of high-profile criminals including Vanessa George and Steven Wright, convicted in 2008 for the murder of five women in the Ipswich area.

As soon as it came to my attention I immediately ensured that no more of these would be distributed
Ray Collins, general secretary of the Labour Party

Mr Godsiff defended the campaign tactic, saying the Lib Dems' policy on the issue was "black and white" but they were not making that clear to voters.

"I agree that the imagery is strong but I do not accept that it is any stronger than anything that has been put out by my opponents," Mr Godsiff told the BBC.

"The leaflet has been distributed in certain areas but it does not contain anything that is factually incorrect. I have put out some negative campaigning when my opponents do not tell the electorate what their position is.

"It is right and proper to ask whether they support or do not support whether people convicted of serious crimes can vote. I have invited other candidates to make their position clear....I have made my position clear."

'Legal minefield'

Asked whether he had personally sanctioned the leaflets, he said he would not discuss the "mechanics" of his campaign but accused the Lib Dems of lying about his policies and voting record.

However, Labour have acted to defuse the row, saying the leaflet was not approved at a national level.

"This was a locally produced leaflet," Ray Collins, the party's general secretary, said. "As soon as it came to my attention I immediately ensured that no more of these would be distributed."

The Lib Dems said they were "unhappy" with the claims and did not favour any attempt to give already convicted prisoners the vote, describing such a step as a "legal minefield".

But, in future, they said judges should be given discretion to decide, upon sentencing, whether to strip someone of the vote, depending on the length of sentence and the nature of the crime.

Once a new system was in place, they said existing prisoners should be given the right to launch an appeal to try and secure the vote.

However, they insisted that those guilty of the most serious crime should never be able to do this.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2010/04/19

Wednesday, 14 April 2010


Agencies dealing with children and young people in breach of bail conditions, criminal justice orders (CJOs) and anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) need to strike a balance between enforcement and support to improve outcomes for young offenders and reduce re-offending, according to a new NCB report ‘Children and young people in ‘breach’: A scoping report on policy and practice in the enforcement of criminal justice and anti-social behaviour orders’.

The report contains the initial findings from a project to increase understanding of policy and practice in breach proceedings, particularly focusing on children and young people who are in custody as a result of breach. Recent years have seen an increasing number of young people incarcerated for breach, including cases whereby no criminal offence was committed in the first instance.

It questions whether intervention by anti-social behaviour units is too adult focused so that the conditions attached to ASBOs are unachievable for many young people. In contrast, recent youth justice appears to be trying to move towards a more flexible and child centred approach. The report suggests that communication may be weak between different agencies, young people and their legal representatives, with young people not always understanding the conditions of their order or the consequences of non-compliance.

Di Hart, author of the report and Principal Officer of Youth Justice and Welfare at NCB says, ‘We must remember that young offenders are children first and offenders second. This is not to suggest that young offenders shouldn’t be held to account for their actions, but that the practitioners that work with them should accept responsibility for ensuring their conditions are reasonable and that they understand them in full. Communication, intensive intervention and tailored support are key ingredients in assisting children and young people who are often from difficult and chaotic homes to complete their orders rather than relying on a punitive approach alone.’

Monday, 12 April 2010

The Fear Factory – the work continues

All may have gone quiet on the blog but we’ve been very busy behind the scenes. On the strength of the film, almost 50 national organisations joining the coalition, fantastic press and unprecedented support from key stakeholders, the Nationwide Foundation have very kindly agreed to fund the future work of The Fear Factory as we campaign for:

A cross-party commitment to creating and implementing an effective, long term Criminal Justice strategy based on evidence.

An "Amnesty" on the "arms race" - ending policies driven by short-term political gain, media sensationalism and "tough-talk".

Britain has one of the highest incarceration rates in Western Europe and though supposedly only used as a last resort and to house those most dangerous offenders, the UK incarcerates more children than most other western countries – currently over 2,500 children are in jail.

As the media decries the youth of today and the spectre of ‘broken Britain’ raises it’s ugly head, politicians knee-jerk to each story of violent youth, conveniently ignoring that at the heart of the issue are some of the most vulnerable children and young people who have been failed by social services and failed by us.

Conditions in custody are regularly criticised by independent inspectors, including the over-use of physical force and deliberate infliction of pain, strip-searching and segregation. The majority of young people are criminalised for minor and petty offences, but set on the trajectory to crime by the system itself. Growing up under these conditions it is no surprise that the re-offending rate is well over 75%. The system isn’t working, and at £170,000 for each new prison place it is a very expensive way of ensuring our young people become more damaged thereby opening society up to a very real risk of crime.

30% of children in custody have been in care, three quarters of the prison population suffer from at least two diagnosable mental health disorders and learning disabilities and difficulties are rife. In 1910 the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill said that the civilisation of a society can be judged by the way it treats its prisoners. When those prisoners are our children and prison takes the place of a failing social services, it is imperative that society takes a serious look at the legacy we are building before it’s too late and Britain ‘grows’ the largest adult prison population in Europe.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, the DVD is available for purchase at:

We also have a public screening at The Frontline Club on 22nd April at the Frontline Club:

Two screenings as part of the London Independent Film festival on the 18th and 19th April, tickets available here:

I’ll bring you more news soon but in the meantime, check out the New Statesman for news on The Tories’ shocking new crime leaflet - evidence of business as usual for the Fear Factory: