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Thursday, 23 August, 2007

  • Newsnight
  • 23 Aug 07, 05:56 PM

Anarchy in the UK?

From tonight's presenter, Emily Maitlis:

rhysjones_nn_203.jpgWhy has the killing of 11 year-old Rhys Jones shocked the entire country? It sounds like a stupid question, but it merits a moment's thought. Is it because he was shot? Is it because he was so young? Or is it because we think it's now symptomatic of the direction in which this country's going? Early this week David Cameron referred to Anarchy in the UK. He hardly coined the phrase. The song title - by the Sex Pistols - was released over 30 years ago. So have things actually got worse, or does every generation think it's on the verge of anarchy?

Two days ago, the story of a sausage hit the headlines. Indeed, the sausage in question hit an elderly man walking past the window of a young-ish boy. The case was brought before the crown prosecution service which was itself confused. Should they try the boy for antisocial behaviour or spend their time and our money elsewhere? Even the media were puzzled. Do we call it Just William? Or Just Stupid? One news bulletin asked.

But perhaps the question is more central than we realise. Does the kind of crime that ends in the shooting of an 11 year-old boy start with the lobbing of a sausage? And if we crack down on one sausage thrower early with parental or court discipline, do we cut down on life-ruining antisocial crime later? They called this zero tolerance in New York and it seemed to work there under Rudy Giuliani. But would it work here? Just one of the questions we'll be considering tonight as we dedicate the entire programme to the issues surrounding the death of Rhys Jones in Liverpool.

Our panel of five - including experts in the field of gun crime, youth work, violent gangs - as well as the Home Secretary herself - will be helping us to analyse why this problem now seems so endemic to Britain, and whether we actually have the root causes right. Today Gordon Brown promised new laws and tougher enforcement. But this country has not been short on initiatives - be they ASBOs or Parenting Orders - which in many cases simply fail to do the job.

Indeed the government itself showed how little sway it had earlier this week: unable to deport a convicted criminal - the killer of headmaster Philip Lawrence - because the European legislation proved too robust to allow it to have its way. So are the institutions which are there to protect - courts, immigration services, police - left impotent by dogged legislation?

This evening, the big questions are tackled head on: What causes violent crime? And how do we stop it.

Join us tonight, and let us know your thoughts below.

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