Home Office policy leak - tough on rhyme, tough on the causes of rhyme

Posted by David Mulcahy on 01 April 2019

Brexit may seem like the only story in town, but it hasn’t stopped the wheels of Government from turning. Sure the satnav’s on the blink, the driver’s preoccupied and the airbags have been removed, but the wheels still turn. And amidst the Brexit madness, you may have missed some interesting developments.

Accuse cruise

It emerged over the weekend that the Home Office is looking into techniques which will allow police to accurately predict when crimes will be committed and who the perpetrators will be.

The plans, set out in a leaked internal paper seen by Liberty entitled “Guesstimating Criminality”, sets out how government officials will not only seek the early imprisonment of people predisposed to criminal behaviour, but stop people being drawn into crime altogether.

For instance, the paper outlines how a new ‘tough on rhyme, tough on the causes of rhyme’ policy will see ‘Drill’ artists locked up before they ever pick up a mic.

Plans to garner public support for the scheme stepped up a notch recently, when Home Secretary Sajid Javid was spotted greeting Tom Cruise at Heathrow Airport. Mr Javid had hoped the ‘pre-crime’ expert would accept an invitation to share best practice.

Unfortunately, complications with Mr Cruise’s visa mean he was in the end unable to provide the level of publicity anticipated, and was instead limited to sending an encouraging message of support from his room at Brook House immigration detention centre. The Top Gun star said “implementing predictive policing isn’t mission impossible – it’s Minority Report”.

Heeding this blatant-self-promotion-dressed-as-a-quote support, the Government has subsequently tried to recruit exceptional individuals with strong track-records of making successful predictions.

However, they suffered a major setback when Punxsutawney refused to send Phil the Groundhog to the UK, and some old tweets resurfaced proving Euromillions winner Barry from Wrexham had actually won off a ‘lucky dip’.

Fun and games

Of course it’s not just central government which makes the rules. Local councils get a piece of the action too – and they’ve been busy.

In an attempt to make their towns more appealing, local authorities have been using Public Space Protection Orders to institute population-wide games of ‘the floor is lava’.

But so-called human rights defenders are spoiling everyone’s fun, arguing the craze, in which players pretend the ground is fatally hot and must be avoided, is inherently unfair and should be scrapped as rough sleepers stand no chance of winning.

Compounding the problem, the British Sports Commission has washed its hands of the games, saying it is not permitted to assist in any challenge to the rules.

John, who has slept rough across the south coast for a decade, said “this isn’t how we do things down here – it’s just not Fareham”.

Reality check

Those stories are ridiculous, but this April Fools’ Day they’re not a million miles from reality.

We’ve found that at least 14 police forces have used or intend to use computer programs to predict where crime will occur and who will commit it. If that didn’t sound dangerous enough, those programmes are fed on discriminatory data.

Predictive-policing violates our rights and must end. Read Liberty’s comprehensive report for the full picture.

And since 2014, local councils have been able to create Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) to criminalise any activity they think has a detrimental effect on the lives of others in the area. Breaching a PSPO leads to an on-the-spot fine of £100. If you don’t pay up, you face a trip to court and a possible £1,000 penalty.

Many councils have used these Orders to ban rough sleeping in a cynical attempt to make their town centres more aesthetically pleasing. But sleeping rough isn’t antisocial behaviour, it’s a desperate situation caused by complex social issues that slapping people with fines can’t possibly help overcome.

We have a case against an Order, but our client needs legal aid to go to court. Yet the Legal Aid Agency says it doesn’t provide financial assistance to challenge PSPOs, even though they affect some of the poorest people in society.

Last month we took the Agency to court to force a change in policy, and we now await the verdict.

Stand up to power

Sometimes the truth isn’t too far from the unthinkable. Thankfully Liberty’s members have been fighting abuses of power for 85 years – and we always will. Join Liberty today.

David Mulcahy Liberty

David Mulcahy

Communications Officer