Democratic Justice

Labour's actions speak louder than their speeches about 'moderni-sation'. Their half-hearted constitutional reforms have not restored public faith in our political institutions. Their reactionary stance on criminal justice and civil liberties is soft on the inequality and loss of community that cause crime.

We need a new commitment to justice in our national life that addresses the real causes of crime and gives offenders a route back to society.

Creating a Green society will be an immense challenge. We will meet it only if everyone is treated equally, has faith in society, and knows that their views count.

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Conclusion

Rehabilitation not retribution

Labour and Conservative politicians compete to play the 'prison card'. The more people they lock up the more secure we are supposed to feel. The prison population has increased from 44,000 to 66,000 in the last five years and is still rising - as is the level of crime.

By reinvigorating local communities, reducing inequality and establishing a shared sense of purpose, Green policies will reduce crime. The criminal justice system should help offenders repair the harm they have caused and find a useful role in the community. Not only will this reduce crime; it will release resources to be used more sensibly. Forcing people to languish in overcrowded prisons, where they become students of crime, costs ten times as much as rehabilitation in the community.

Restoring justice

We support Restorative Justice. This requires offenders to make practical or financial reparation to victims and the community. Where appropriate, offenders are required to attend supervised meetings with their victims to discuss the impact of their crimes.

Prisons

Prison should be used only when the community needs protection from the offender. Otherwise community service and probation orders involving training and rehabilitation will be used. Prisons' immunity from Health and Safety legislation, the Factories Act 1990 and the unfitness provisions of the Housing Act 1985 should be ended, and their Crown immunity lifted.

Policing the community

Police forces should increase their involvement with local people by employing more community officers and operating recruitment policies that ensure they reflect the racial composi-tion of the local area. The Police Complaints Authority must become fully independent.


HOW TO DEAL WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS?
Restorative justice programmes (involving a range of agencies, police, probation, youth services etc. and often the victims meeting the perpetrators) cost 720 per offender and have re-offending rates of 35 % or less.

Taking young offenders to court costs 2,500. Around 67% of them re-offend.

Secure Training Centres (' child jails') cost 125,000 per child per year (eg Medway centre in Kent). Some have re-offending rates of 100% (eg Lisnevin, Northern Ireland).

"If we had a proper system of community punishments and community sanctions which were credible, then one third [of prisoners] need not go to prison."

Sir David Ramsbotham, Chief Inspector of Prisons, Observer, 31 December 2000

 

 

 

Dealing with drugs

Much crime is associated with drugs. In 1998 128,000 arrests were made for drugs offences, of which 98,000 involved cannabis only. Many drugs offences, like possession of cannabis for personal use, have no victims. Prohibition has failed and crime associ-ated with addictive drug use could be reduced if addicts were given the right help.

Possession and supply

The possession, use and supply of cannabis through home-cultivation and licensed 'coffee shops' should be legalised. This would cut out drug dealers who are keen to move customers on to addictive drugs. It would also stop the police misusing cannabis laws. The possession of other drugs for personal use should be decriminalised. Their supply should remain illegal until a specially convened Drugs Commission considers whether to legalise each drug, and if so, how best to regulate its supply.

Cutting drug addiction

GPs should be allowed to prescribe maintenance doses of heroin to stabilise addicts' habits and move them onto rehabilitation programmes. The commercial promotion of drugs, including tobacco and alcohol, should be banned.

 

A voice for all

The Westminster electoral system is grossly unfair. A minority of voters can elect a government with a massive majority. Elections can be won or lost in a few dozen marginal seats. The two biggest parties chase the same sterile centre ground, afraid to upset the big business donors who dominate the political system. No wonder turnout is plummeting.

We need a political system that brings power back to the people and gives a voice to all.

Proportional representation

Proportional representation should be introduced at all levels of government. The Additional Member System (AMS) is best for Westminster because it retains a constituency system. Local Authorities should consult their electorates on whether to adopt AMS or the Single Transferable Vote system.

A just basis for politics

The voting age should be reduced to 16. Parliaments should last for a fixed term of four years so the ruling party can no longer fix election dates to suit itself. The House of Lords should be replaced by a chamber fully elected by proportional representation.

Institutional and large private political donations should be banned and replaced by state funding of parties in proportion to the votes they received at the previous election. The national limits for General Election campaign expenditure should be radically reduced.

Extending devolution

The Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Greater London Authority should assume greater powers, leading to full independence for Scotland and Wales should they approve it by referendum.

Regional assemblies in England, elected by proportional representation, should take over the powers currently exercised by the regional quangos and government offices. Initially they should be funded by direct grant. Tax-raising powers may replace this in time.

A new mandate for local government

Local authorities should be free to retain the committee system. Local cabinets, established by the Local Government Act 2000, should be prevented from conducting routine business in secret. Local authorities should be given the freedom to set their own levels of spending and taxation and to borrow money for capital projects.

 

Constituting Britain

Britain is a rich man's club, with one set of rules for those on the inside and another for the rest. Millions of people face routine discrimination in their daily lives while a powerful elite manipulate the system. We need a rigorous programme of reform. People's rights and responsibilities should be clearly defined in a written constitution.

Legislating for freedom

We need a Bill which collates and strengthens existing legislation banning discrimination against individ-uals on the grounds of gender, race, ethnic origin, nationality, age, sexuality, religion or disability. It would incorpo-rate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, extend the right of civil marriage to same-sex couples and amend the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act to establish an adequate compliance mechanism.

The Government's Freedom of Information Act is weak. It allows ministers to withhold information without explanation. The Act must be amended to define in advance what categories of information may be withheld.

Constitutional reform

A Constitutional Commission should be set up to draft a written constitution. The Church of England should be disestablished. This would end the privileges it enjoys and the interference of government in its affairs. The Monarchy should no longer have a formal legislative, executive or judicial role, though the royal family could continue in a ceremonial capacity.


DRUGS - THE FACTS
UK deaths per annum from drugs (1996): Methadone 387, Heroin 187, Ecstasy 7, Cannabis 0, Alcohol and Tobacco 160,000.

Since 1987 the numbers of UK drug arrests has increased by 400%. In 1998 it was 128,000, of which 97,000 were for cannabis.

Recent Home Office reports suggest 28% of thefts, burglaries and muggings are related to addictive drug use.

In 1997/ 98 the Government spent 1.4bn on drugs, with more than two thirds going to law and order and only one third on treatment.

Nacro estimate that for every 1 spent on treatment 3 is saved on the crime bill.

Maintenance doses of heroin for addicts in Zurich have caused a 60% drop in crime amongst people on the scheme.

Holland has a more liberal drugs policy than the UK and fewer people taking drugs. Cannabis exposure amongst 15- year-olds (1995 figures): 29% in the Netherlands; 34% in the US; 41% in the UK (Dutch Embassy report).

Source: Green Party research department
 
"Attempts to restrict the availability of drugs have failed ... the most obvious alternative approach [to prohibition] is the legalisation and subsequent regulation of some or all drugs."

Cleveland Police, December 1999

 

 

 

 

Rescuing Europe

British Greens want a peaceful and sustainable Europe. The European Union frustrates this desire. It helped to prevent conflict after the Second World War and has pioneered some impressive social and environmental legislation. Yet today it is dominated by vested economic interests, and its institutions are remote and unaccount-able. Moreover, the Common Agricultural Policy has done great harm. We seek radical reform of the EU.

A multi-track EU

We reject the superstate model of the EU as too centralised and remote from the people. The EU should address transnational ecological issues; safeguard basic standards of human, civil and animal rights; regulate multinational companies; regionalise the European economy; redistribute resources within Europe and with the rest of the world; resolve disputes between member states and promote understanding between their peoples. Other issues, including trade and economic policy, should be left to the member states to deal with. They should co-operate on matters of shared concern with groups of member states free to reach agreements on particular issues -a multi-track Europe. This will be more important as the EU expands to the east.

Democratising the EU

Decisions within the EU's areas of responsibility should take the form of agreed minimum standards that member states are free to exceed. They should be made by qualified majority voting at the Council of Ministers in co-decision with the European Parliament. Outside these areas, decisions should be subject to national veto.

The Commission should change from an executive to a civil service. The right to initiate legislation should be extended to the European Parliament, member states, the Committee of the Regions and citizens' initiatives. The European Parliament should be given greater powers to scrutinise EU affairs.

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Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas join the Green/ EFA Group of MEPs demonstrating in the European Parliament calling for action on climate change.
 

"We can sign up to a EU of ever more open markets, dominated by corporate interests. Or we can work towards a more inspiring vision, where the EU takes the lead on key issues of peace, democracy, social justice and human rights; and where its environmental policy-making sets an example for the world."

Caroline Lucas MEP and Dr Mike Woodin, New Europe, 2000

 

 

Home | Reach for the future | A just economics | The just society
Ecological justice | Securing justice globally | Democratic justice | Conclusion