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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

August 26, 2008: Summary Justice Widening Criminal Justice Net

Government policies aimed at diverting minor offences from court have resulted in `extensive net-widening', with individuals `being brought within the ambit of the criminal justice system who previously were ignored or dealt with informally', according to a new study published today by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London.

The study, `Summary justice: Fast - but Fair?', was authored by Professor Rod Morgan, a criminologist and former Youth Justice Board chair.

`Summary justice' powers such as cautions, Fixed Penalty Notices and Penalty Notices for Disorder have been encouraged by the government as a speedy way of dealing with minor offences without resort to costly and time-consuming court processes.

The study points out that many minor offences have been diverted from the courts, as the government intended. But there is also `clear evidence of net-widening', Morgan argues, including the `too ready criminalisation of children and young people for minor offences'. Morgan concludes that:

`There is a need for a thoroughgoing review (as there remains a risk that) persons and behaviours will be criminalised where both commonsense and the public interest suggest that informal control systems and informal sanctions would better apply.'

The report highlights a number of trends that Professor Morgan argues merit further scrutiny. These include:

  • Rises in the numbers of convictions for violence offences, but much larger rises in the resort to cautions. Convictions for serious indictable violence offences were 11 percent higher in 2006 compared with 2001, while cautions were 92 percent higher. The comparable figures for less serious indictable offences were 19 percent for convictions and 195 percent for cautions.
  • There is no evidence to support the contention that serious offences that might normally be expected to come to court are being dealt with pre-court.
  • Regional differences between different areas of the country in the use of summary powers. As decision-making is made in private rather than in open court this has resulted in an `accountability deficit'.

Professor Morgan commented:

`The increased use of pre-court summary justice is one of the most important elements in the government's strategy for modernising the criminal justice system. The implementation of the strategy has received virtually no research, inspectoral or parliamentary scrutiny. The trend towards pre-court summary justice should more incisively be scrutinised to ensure that justice is being meted out fairly and effectively. We cannot be wholly confident that this is so.'

Centre for Crime and Justice Studies director Richard Garside added:

`This incisive analysis raises important questions about the consequences of government policies to divert minor offences from the courts. The greater use of summary powers appears to have resulted in more people being dragged into the criminal justice system.'