Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Lawful Society

Think-tank, Reform, yesterday launched an interesting new pamphlet, entitled ‘The Lawful Society’, making a series of observations on the UK criminal justice system.

From a Plaid position, the most important point made was the centralisation of the UK criminal justice system, with Reform noting that in federal countries, such as the USA, Canada, Australia and Germany, justice tends to be devolved, with an ensuing flexibility in action for the criminal justice system – something for which we have long argued in favour.

The report also recognised that the justice system works as vertical silos rather than as a joined up support system that deals holistically with problems.

Reform also questioned the value for money of the present justice system, noting the ‘arms race’ between major parties to be seen to be tough on crime, leading to the present position where we spend a higher percentage of our GDP on criminal justice than any other developed country, where we reach a new high in our prison population with each passing month (more than 84,000 according to yesterday’s latest figures) and where there appears to be little value for money in terms of rehabilitation – the re-offending rate or young people being 60% of the 2003 cohort and 90% in terms of those with multiple previous convictions.

The main thrust of their argument was about taking back justice – that the overwhelming majority of people surveyed in the UK perceived that crime was an issue for the police rather than for the community and therefore abdicated responsibility.

The report underlines some of the major concerns regarding the effectiveness of the UK’s criminal justice system, many of which could be answered in a Welsh context that took a different attitude towards crime and the justice system – that rejects the criminalisation of young people, that approaches crime as part of a holistic solution to other problems associated with social deprivation and which restores the link between action to stop crime and the responsibility of the community, rather than out-sourcing responsibility to the police and politicians who use crime, and the fear of crime, as electoral fodder.

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