The Government has created more than 4,200 new criminal offences since it came to power in 1997, research by the Liberal Democrats has found.
The figures, released in Parliamentary answers, show:
- Between 1997 and 2009, 4,289 new criminal offences were created, approximately one for every day ministers have been in office
- The rate at which new offences are being created is increasing. Under Tony Blair, new criminal offences were created at a rate of 27 a month but under Gordon Brown’s premiership, this has risen to 33 a month
The Liberal Democrats are calling for an end to this excessive criminalisation with the creation of a ‘stop unit’ in the Cabinet Office. Every department in Whitehall would have to convince this small legal unit the need for a new offence.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said:
“This splurge of new criminal offences shows that the Government has learned nothing.
“Three times the Liberal Democrats have asked for an update on the number of new criminal offences and it is staggering that the problem is getting worse rather than better.
“This legislative diarrhoea is not about making us safer, it is merely ministers posturing on penalties.
“Many of these offences are worthless, as they duplicate offences which could perfectly well have been used instead.
“Whitehall urgently needs a stop mechanism which ensures that departments must check first whether the behaviour they dislike can be prosecuted already.
“The legacy of Labour is hyperactive law making that has spread confusion among police officers, judges and every other professional who has to deal with this cascade of nonsense.”