By James Slack
Record numbers of middle-aged people are being ‘criminalised’ by target-chasing police.
The number of over-40s receiving a first conviction or caution has increased by half since 2001.
It is now running at a startling 65 a day, according to new Government figures.
After decades of abiding by the law, people are being punished for crimes such as motoring offences or refusing to pay wheelie-bin fines.
Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said they were being pursued so police could meet the targets imposed by Labour.
These give the same weight to catching a speeding motorist as to snaring a rapist or paedophile.
Mr Huhne said last night: ‘Labour have criminalised a generation and treated tens of thousands of law-abiding middle-aged and elderly citizens like villains.’
Parliamentary answers show the number of first-time entrants to the criminal justice system who are over 50 increased by 46.3 per cent between 2000/01 and 2007/08, from 16,400 to 24,000.
In the 40-49 age group, the leap was 57.4 per cent, with 32,900 previously law-abiding people being criminalised.
The increases in the middle-aged groups far outstripped the general picture. In the population as a whole, there was a rise of just 18.6 per cent.
The figures reflect the fact that many of Labour’s new spot fines for ‘crimes’ such as overfilling a wheelie bin are aimed at householders,
A first-time entrant is someone receiving their first court conviction or caution, as recorded on the police national computer.
Motoring offences, including things like not wearing a seatbelt, make up half the cases dealt with by the courts.
Drivers who challenge a speed camera ticket must go to court and will account for many of the punishments.
Refusing to accept a wheelie-bin fine can also lead to court.
This Government has created a new crime for every day in office.
When motoring offences and rubbish-bin misdemeanours are worth the same as convictions for murder or rape, it is easy to see how we have slipped into mass criminalisation.
Criminologist Dr David Green, of the Civitas think-tank, said the law-abiding middle-classes were being ‘deliberately targeted’ by police who had to achieve a large number of ‘sanction detections’ – solved crimes.
A recent report warned that the middle classes have lost confidence in the police.
It said they have been alienated by a service which routinely targets ordinary people rather than serious criminals, simply to fill Government crime quotas.
Author Harriet Sergeant said incidents which would once have been ignored are now treated as crimes.
She said: ‘Complaints against the police have risen, with much of the increase coming from law-abiding, middleclass, middle-aged and retired people who no longer feel the police are on their side.’
Miss Sergeant said this was due in part to people becoming upset by the ‘rudeness and behaviour’ of officers.