Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Penalty Points for Criminality/Anti-social behaviour

There was a lively debate on RTE’s Frontline last night on the subject of criminality and anti-social behaviour.

Clearly any solution will have to be multi-faceted, a combination of carrot & stick measures.

Most of those appearing in our courts are described as “unemployed” or “on disability” – in other words, the state is supplementing their criminal lifestyle. In addition, it seems to be widely accepted that ASBOs have limited deterrent effect on juvenile offenders, who often make life hell for neighbours.

Here’s one “stick” measure which might be effective.
We have a penalty points system for motoring offences – why not have one for criminal and anti-social activity offences? Every citizen (and welfare recipient) has an individual PPS number, so it should not be rocket science to modify the system.

Every conviction to carry a points tariff, leading to a reduction in benefit payment to the convicted party. If that party is a juvenile, the reduction will apply to the child benefits paid on behalf of that child. Such a system might incentivise parents to take more interest into what their kids are getting up to outside the house!

As with motoring points, these new points would automatically fall off the system 2 years after they were awarded, so that a period of good behaviour will also be rewarded.

At a time when many people are facing cuts in benefits and uncertainty about their financial security, clamping down on those who have no interest in working, but rather are intent on pursuing a state-funded lifestyle involving petty criminality and anti-social behaviour, would seem like the first and most appropriate reform of the welfare system.

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