The Last Straw
Under Controversial new laws local authorities can now intern whole families without charge
The law was quietly brought in as an amendment to the public order act in 1999. The act allows local authorities to lock up entire families without charge. The act has remained on the statute book unused until now. This month Blackburn borough council are applying to have the Straw family imprisoned due to their anti-social behaviour, head of social services Brian Palmer is unrepentant at his actions "The Straw family live on the Skeetsmoor estate and are a mini crime wave, we've tried taken them through the criminal courts but they've always got off with cautions at worst. The next day they're back making life a misery for other residents. For unknown reasons crime seems the norm in certain families - this legislation provides a fast track to getting of the streets"
Our reporter Sam Hunter visited the estate to find out more. Most residents were afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals, many however complained of drug dealing and assualts by the Straw family. One person, long time resident Tracey Simmonds was prepared to speak out "The familys been terrible since they moved in. The young son Williams the worst, he deals drugs right under the noses of the Police, they try press charges but his dad Jack just marches down to the station and next thing he gets off with a caution. Jacks brother also called William is a real thug and has beaten up several people, but he just seems to get away with it. As for Jack he goes tearing round in this car, the coucil introduced traffic calming measures but you can see him grinning as he flies over the humps. Once the council locks them up the better"
Sam visited the Straws at their run down 1960's council semi in Hichcliffe Road, the garden was something of a tip with the remains of a bonfire in the garden and a urine soaked mattress leaning on a house wall. An angry pit bull terrier meant Sam had to stay outside the garden but he still managed to interview Jack Straw, aged 55 Jack was stripped to the waist and working on a car, the car was a Jaguar, an expensive car considering all his income comes from the taxpayers pocket. Jack claimed the family were themselves victims of harrassment and claimed neighbours were running a vendetta against them. He claims to have had dog faeces through the letter box, stones thrown at the house and secret cabinet papers leaked to the press. When asked about allegations that his brother was involved in the indecent assault of a teenage girl he became abusive and threatened to intercept our reporters e-mails..
Local police confirmed that the Straw family were well known to them, one anonymous sergeant disclosed that the Straws know their rights and have a good solicitor, they don't say a thing until he turns up at the station. This together with the fact no-one on the estate is willing to speak out in court against them ensures their reign of terror has continued for over three years now.
The cases against the Straws come to Blackburn magistrates in 3 weeks, the case represents something of a test case. If the case goes against the Straws the whole family will be kept at Garstang prison until a high court judge allows their release, thousands of other problem families will then expect te same fate.
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