Sunday July 9, 2006
New report slams government's 'tough on victims' criminal justice policies
[Scroll down for link to Report in pdf format, and also BBC News item on the Report]
The government's drive to improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system is failing to address some of the most serious offences, so ignoring the suffering of many thousands of victims, a new report from the Crime and Society Foundation today claims.
The report, entitled 'Right for the wrong reasons', points out that the vast majority of some of the most serious and violent offences never end in the successful conviction of an offender, calling into question the government's faith in the crime-fighting potential of the criminal justice system.
'Right for the wrong reasons' points out that the government significantly underestimates the scale of failure of the criminal justice system. When the true scale of victimisation of serious offences such as child abuse and sexual assaults are acknowledged, it is clear that the criminal justice system is never likely to have anything but a marginal impact on levels and rates.
Rather than pursuing a hopeless quest to drive up the conviction rate, the report argues, the government should be taking seriously the social and economic causes of crime. The real crime reduction challenge, argues 'Right for the wrong reasons', lies in a much broader array of social and economic changes than the criminal justice system can ever deliver.
On the day before David Cameron's widely-trailed speech on crime, the report author Richard Garside, Chair of the Crime and Society Foundation and Acting Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said,
'Bang for buck, the criminal justice system is one of the least effective means of reducing and controlling crime. Most crime never ends in a conviction. Most victims never get redress through the criminal justice system. The cross-party 'tough on crime' consensus is tough on victims too.
'Our levels of crime and victimisation reflect the way that we organise our society, not the relative toughness of our criminal justice system. The way to a safer and lower crime society lies in policies to reduce poverty, challenge sexism, and tackle concentrations of power.'
Contact: Sean Roberts, Senior Associate: 020 7848 1687; 07817 383 898.
Notes to editors
1. 'Right for the wrong reasons: Making sense of criminal justice failure', by Richard Garside, is published by the Crime and Society Foundation on July 9, 2006. A pdf version is available HERE
News -- Sunday, 9 July 2006
Reforms 'are not reducing crime'
The Crime and Society Foundation wants poverty and sexism tackled
Reforms of the criminal justice system are largely ineffective in cutting crime, an independent think tank says.
The Crime and Society Foundation, at King's College, London, says ministers should focus instead on tackling root causes such as poverty and sexism.
And it says crime rates are far higher than have been acknowledged, with few crimes leading to a conviction.
Last month Tony Blair said there was a gap between the criminal justice system and what the public expects.
The foundation says the government is trapped in a "policy cul-de-sac" of trying to raise conviction rates by improving criminal justice effectiveness.
'Redress for few'
But reforms had only a marginal impact, it said - and improving the standard of living would reduce crime far more effectively.
There was also a great need to tackle some men's attitude to women, it said.
It quoted one survey from 2000 which suggested 40% of men believed it would be acceptable to hit their partner for sleeping with another man and 20% for neglecting their children.
"Much violence suffered by some of the most vulnerable in our society will not begin to be addressed until the systemic misogyny and sexism of British society is confronted," the report said.
The think-tank made similar claims in 2004, when it criticised the government's use of the British Crime Survey as a measure, on the grounds that the findings do not cover all offences.
Richard Garside, the report's author, said: "Our levels of crime and victimisation reflect the way that we organise our society, not the relative toughness of our criminal justice system.
"The way to a safer and lower crime society lies in policies to reduce poverty, challenge sexism, and tackle concentrations of power.
"The criminal justice system is one of the least effective means of reducing and controlling crime."
The author argues that "most victims never get redress through the criminal justice system", adding: "The cross-party 'tough on crime' consensus is tough on victims too."
Last month the prime minister said that in a bid to rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of victims, the rights of suspects must not "outweigh" those of the "law-abiding majority".
Mr Blair argued Mr Blair argued "screaming" headlines had often prevented a rational debate on how to tackle crime.