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We’re All Criminals – Like it or Not!

The 12 months of 2012, like the 12 days of Christmas, had a variety of surprises in store for the UK population. Exactly like “my true love” in the famous song, the British Government managed to send us a series of unlikely gifts which criminalised activity, which previously had been perfectly legal, if not altogether pleasant. 

The year started with a debate on whether to criminalise tenancy subletting, but by February the government was introducing new sentencing guidelines for drugs offences. In March Scotland caught up with the rest of the UK and criminlised certain behaviour at football matches. April saw moves to strengthen the law on human trafficking and in May it became clear that forced marriages was to become a criminal offence.

However, the increase in criminal offences was not limited to the sphere of human rights. In fact by June 2012 the number of new criminal offences had nearly doubled when compared to the previous 12 months. In the second half of the year, the race to create new offences continued apace. For example by July, the hapless motorist, already under seriel attack from the government was witness to the number of offences which attract penalty points increasing to 48!

August saw more stringent reporting conditions for people on the Register of Sex Offenders. For example registrants are now required to notify the police if they move in to a household where there are children under the age of 18. In September, squatting became a criminal offence as well as a civil one. Squatters now face up to 6 months imprisonment or a hefty fine. Civil activists are worried that this “gift” from the government could result in the vulnerable becoming criminalised. 

From 23/10/12, only criminals should buy scrap metal for cash.The Home Office in typical officialese stated that the aim of the new offence is to ‘remove the rewards that make metal theft such a low risk criminal enterprise for metal thieves and unscrupulous dealers’. November saw the introduction of the new offence of stalking. Only time will tell what practical difference this will make to victims who are caused “alarm or distress” following the alleged perpetrator’s “course of conduct.” Perhaps to ensure that December remains a “season of goodwill”, the new offence of aggravated knife possession came into force on 03/12/12. Anyone who uses a knife or offensive weapon to threaten or endanger others will now face a mandatory custodial sentence.

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