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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

October 19, 2004: Targeting the 'Usual Suspects'?

The government’s crime reduction strategy risks targeting the ‘usual suspects’ rather than those who cause the most harm or pose the greatest risk, according to the inaugural discussion paper from the London based criminal justice policy think-tank the Crime and Society Foundation.

The paper, entitled ‘Crime, persistent offenders and the justice gap��, points out that many of those who commit hidden crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assaults, crimes against children and white collar crime do not come to the attention of the authorities. This means that the government’s strategy to target known offenders is likely to ignore them. When the paper’s conclusions appeared in the “Observer” prior to publication, it trailed his paper as the “most authoritative and far-reaching analysis ever of official crime figures”. The paper also argues that government spin on crime figures is misleading and counterproductive.

Government ministers assert that some 100,000 persistent offenders are responsible for half of all crime. A mere 5,000 prolific offenders are said to commit nearly 10 percent of all crime. The discussion paper contends such claims are ‘manifestly incorrect’ as they are based on information about those convicted of crime, not those who commit it. Less than 3 percent of known crime results in an offender’s successful prosecution. By focusing attention on known offenders, the paper argues, ministers ‘risk marginalizing arguably more important crime reduction priorities’.

The paper also criticises the use made by the government of the authoritative British Crime Survey (BCS). Though a more accurate measure of some crime than statistics recorded by the police, the BCS tells us little or nothing about a range of crimes, including sexual assaults, crimes against children, and white collar crime. As a result the use made of it by ministers as a basis for claims about crime as a whole stretches credibility, the paper argues.
Among the papers conclusions are:

  •  What the paper labels as the ‘reassuring myth’ that a small number of individuals commit a large proportion of all crime should be rethought.
  •  The government should consider developing more comprehensive measures of crime in all its variety, as well as a more nuanced understanding of the various causes and contexts of crime, to aid policy and debate.
  • Politicians and other opinion formers should be much more honest about the limitations of the criminal justice system in dealing with crime. Public confidence is not served, the paper argues, by overselling the capacity of the criminal justice system to deal with crime.

According to the discussion paper’s author Richard Garside:

‘Pulling in the usual suspects is not the same as targeting the most serious offenders, or those who cause the most harm. Serious offences such as domestic violence, sexual assaults, offences against children and white collar crime are not adequately measured by official statistics. They are often never resolved, while many of those who commit such offences are never held accountable for their actions.
‘Effective crime reduction policy should be based on a clear understanding of the variety and diversity of crime. Government and opposition spinning on crime figures neither aids democratic debate nor helps to inform effective policy.’

The paper is downloadable in full here.