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New Labour hitting the taxpayers over real criminals.

At last someone has stated openly what the rest of us have known for years.

Shoplifters are getting lighter punishments than families who overfill their bins, the country's prosecutions watchdog said yesterday.

The comments by Stephen Wooler, the Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, will inflame the row over the march towards 'soft justice' under Labour.

More than half of all crimes are now dealt with outside court as hundreds of thousands of offenders escape with cautions or on-the-spot fines for theft, loutish behaviour and smoking cannabis each year.

But at the same time, otherwise law-abiding citizens who commit bin 'crimes' or stray into bus lanes are being hit with fines of up to £120.

In evidence to a committee of MPs, Mr Wooler said: 'I could point to parts of the country where you might attract a £60 fine or fixed penalty for shoplifting or criminal damage and yet from the local authority a large fine if you overfill your wheelie bin or in London, if you are in a bus lane, it would be even more.'

He said he was 'not satisfied that the level of checks and balances' on the issuing of on-the-spot fines for crimes such as shoplifting is ' sufficient to retain public confidence'.

New Labour, hard on the law abiding, soft on criminals.

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