England has the highest Imprisonment rates in Western Europe

OK, this is not strictly about benefits.

But we have the number of people with mental illnesses in our prisons skyrocketing and the removal of legal aid. We  have people being sanctioned and removed from the benefit system by many other means, including wearing down the sick to a point where they cannot face going through another ‘medical assessment’ We have the imposition of court charges on claimants, with swinging increases in those fines should they plead innocent and then be declared guilty. We have over a million people using the Trussel Trust foodbanks alone. We have soaring rates of debt, destitution and eviction amongst our most vulnerable.

And now we see this:

Imprisonment rates w europe

Data for October 2015 from the International Centre for Prison Studies, (with thanks to the Howard Lead for Penal Reform Scotland for posting it on my twitter feed)

Benefit sanctions often to blame for increase in food thefts, says police commissioner

GOVERNMENT ministers in denial over links between benefit changes and shoplifting must “wake up and smell the coffee,” according to a North-East police commissioner.

Durham police and crime commissioner Ron Hogg has raised concerns over benefit changes and sanctions leading to an increase in poverty, with people often committing offences simply to live. Mr Hogg said the rising demand for food banks is evidence enough to show the impact austerity measures have had on those struggling to make ends meet.

 Speaking during a visit to the Food Store at King’s Church, in Whessoe Road, Darlington, he said: “If they have been sanctioned for 13 weeks, how are they supposed to feed themselves? What greater evidence do they need?The fact that we need food banks is disgraceful, but what they are doing here is fantastic. It cannot be right that so many families in a town like Darlington are relying on this just to feed their family.


Read the rest of this article here: http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/11528906.Benefit_sanctions_often_to_blame_for_increase_in_food_thefts__says_police_commissioner/


Police warn that ‘relentless’ bedroom tax is turning people into criminals

The government’s controversial bedroom tax has come under fire once again, with concerns expressed by police chiefs that its victims are being forced to turn to crime and unscrupulous loan sharks.

Cleveland and Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) believe the under-occupancy policy is piling financial pressures on families across the region, and have highlighted that, according to the government’s own figures, 59% of tenants struck by the ‘spare room subsidy’ have been unable to meet their basic housing costs.

Barry Coppinger, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, said: “[The] Bedroom tax leaves many in severe hardship and I’m concerned that some families will turn to volatile loan sharks as a short-term solution. The pressure increases when they can’t pay what they owe the unlicensed moneylender, particularly if a threat of violence is looming over them.

“Deep and relentless welfare reforms have a knock-on effect on other crimes, particularly shoplifting, as families turn to the black-market to buy food and other items they can’t afford in the shops. I would reiterate the importance of seeking trusted financial advice, accessing credit unions and asking to be referred to a food bank. Food bank locations in Cleveland are on the information section of my website.”

Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, added: “We predicted that this tax would cause massive problems for some of the most vulnerable in our society. With more welfare reform yet to be implemented the situation will only get worse.

“Many in our communities will struggle to put food on the table or pay their utility bills. As these financial pressures grow we would encourage the use of credit unions and urge those affected to seek trusted financial advice”


North Wales shoplifters will be sent to food banks after poverty drives them to steal

Police commissioner Winston Roddick reveals concerns that hunger is partly to blame for a 21% hike in shoplifting offences

Shoplifters will be directed to food banks after concerns were raised that  hunger is partly to blame for a 21% hike in shoplifting offences during the past year. North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick revealed shoplifting accounted for 10% of all crime in the region – with drug addiction and hunger the most common causes. This will now see all those arrested for shoplifting directed to their local food bank in a bid to cut crime.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting of the North Wales Business Club and the Institute of Directors he said half the incidents took place in 10 of the area’s large chain stores. As well the food bank idea, offenders will be directed to other support services  for drug addicts and a crackdown launched on the crimes. This will see a new network of Shopwatch schemes developed by North Wales Police across the region.

Stores will also be encouraged to issue civil banning orders for shoplifters and a secure website is being developed so information including photographs of prolific offenders can be shared with retailers. Offenders will also be handed details of local food banks as the commissioner said some were stealing to eat.

The Commissioner said: “The biggest crime against businesses nationally is shoplifting. In North Wales shoplifting counts for 10% of the overall crime figures with over half of the incidents taking place in 10 of the large chain stores. The Chief Constable, Mark Polin, and I are fully aware that shoplifting continues to be a challenge with reported offences up 21.7% when compared with the same period last year.


Read the rest of this article here: http://www.dailypost.co.uk/business/business-news/north-wales-shoplifters-sent-food-7364376

Bedroom Tax forced stroke victim to turn to crime so he could pay rent

Ex-airman Adrian Brown begged for a smaller home but council bosses said they didn’t have another – so, hit by mounting debts, he sold a rented TV for £100

Stroke victim Adrian Brown turned to crime to pay the hated Bedroom Tax.

The ex-airman had to fork out an extra £34 on his £97-a-week rent because his council house had unused spare rooms . The 51-year-old begged for a smaller home but council bosses said they didn’t have another specially adapted house. So, hit by mounting debts, he sold a rented TV for £100.

Wheelchair user Adrian, cared for by partner Linda, 43, said: “They were going to kick us out and it was the only thing of real value. It’s disgusting how they have treated someone who served their country. I was willing to put my life on the line for them. I didn’t ask to have a stroke and I didn’t ask for three bedrooms – this was the only one available. Now they have punished me for it.”

He added: “When I knew the bedroom tax was being brought in I asked the council to put us in a one bedroom house. But they said there wasn’t another specially adapted house and we would have to pay the extra money. I didn’t ask for three bedrooms – this was the only one available – and now they have punished me for it.”

Adrian, of Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, was given a conditional discharge by the town’s magistrates and told to pay a £15 victim surcharge.

After the case, housing officials said an adapted one-bed bungalow was now available. But Adrian, paralysed down his left side in 2005, will have to pay the extra rent until he moves in six weeks’ time.

Starving unemployed man sets fire to job centre to get meal in police cells

Bee O’Brien, 49, flew into a rage after a row over his benefits payments and set fire to the customer telephones at Moss Side job centre after he hadn’t eaten for three days

An unemployed man who hadn’t eaten for three days tried to set fire to the job centre – so he could have a meal in police custody.

Bee O’Brien, 49, flew into a rage after a row over his benefits payments and set fire to the customer telephones at Moss Side job centre. O’Brien had not eaten for three days after his benefits had been stopped.

He told police: “I will commit a crime and get arrested. I need some food.”

O’Brien, of Camelford Close, Hulme, admitted criminal damage, attempted arson, and using threatening words and behaviour when he appeared before Manchester magistrates.

 Gina Clayton, defending, said: “His benefits had been stopped for some reason and he hadn’t eaten for three days. He was simply desperate for some food. He went to the job centre to get his payments and lost his temper. He was aware that if he was arrested he would have been given food at the police station.”

Helen Veitch, prosecuting, told the court: “A member of staff at the job centre noticed he was arguing on the customer services advice telephone. He was noted to be aggressive and abusive.

by Pete Brainbridge in the ‘Manchester Evening News’, 26th September 2013: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/unemployed-man-sets-fire-job-6096469

“He was asked to leave the job centre, and was told the staff would phone police. She said the member of staff then ‘heard a clicking noise’ and saw O’Brien with a cigarette lighter.

She said: “He tried to set fire to the phone cable, then went to another phone and repeated the action. He said – ‘Yes, I’m setting fire to this to get arrested’. When police arrived he said: “If you don’t get my money I will commit a crime and get arrested. I need some food.”

He was detained but carried on being abusive in custody and hurled hot chocolate all over his cell.

He was given a 12 month community order and ordered to do 40 hours unpaid work