By Hugh Dunnett, Crime Correspondent
Suffolk Police are bringing back public stocks to deter petty criminals from operating in Ipswich town centre.
Thieves, drug dealers and drunks will be locked up in the stocks and subjected to public ridicule.
The medieval-style detention devices, made from sturdy wood, are being set up on the Cornhill as part of the town centre redevelopment work.
Passers-by will be able to buy fruit and veg from the nearby market and throw them at the hapless criminals.
Police hope the humiliating punishment will be a huge deterrent while giving members of the public some excitement and something to shout about.
“This will also save our budget,” said a police force insider.
“It costs us a fortune to apprehend a suspect, detain them at the station, go through mountains of paperwork and then hope to get them up before magistrates or the crown court.
“But this is a quick and effective punishment that will cost us absolutely nothing.
“We will begin with three sets of stocks, but install more if they prove to be popular.”
Stocks clamps down around the neck and wrists of a criminal, who is then unable to move and can be subjected to verbal and physical abuse.
Police say they expect members of the public to play fair and not give the criminals a quick slap.
The spokesman said: “We’re fine with some tomatoes, cabbages or eggs being lobbed at them, but would ask people not to be any more physical than that.”
Top brass are yet to specify how long criminals would remain in the stocks. “It’s to be decided, but we’re told shoplifting would mean two days, while drug dealing would keep you locked up on display for five days.”
But Lorraine Fisher, 34, from Criminals Have Human Rights Watch, said the stocks was a barbaric punishment that belong in the Middle Ages.
“Our lawyers will be waiting to represent any unfortunate person who finds themselves being subjected to public ridicule without trial.”