Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Robocop Britain – the most expensive justice system in the world

Cranmer has been asked by the think-tank Reform (is not that a most excellent name for a think-tank?) to publicise their latest report, and he is delighted to do so. He does not usually publish 'press releases', and apologises to his readers and communicants if they feel somewhat deprived of his daily musing. But it is incumbent upon righteous government not only to maintain law and order, but to ensure that citizens have confidence in it, and that the taxpayer is receiving good value for money. That the UK has the most expensive justice system in the world is scandalous, not least because it yields nowhere near the best results, and the Government's notion of 'justice' has ceased to fuilfil that which has been understood as shaped by the nation's Christian heritage. The ‘local’ approach – that is subsidiarity (and therein lies the day's theology) – is very much the way to go:

"Centralised ‘Robocop justice’ has made Britain the most expensive country to police in the world as well as reducing public engagement, according to a new report published today. The report, by the independent think tank Reform, finds that the British public have become ‘passive bystanders, uninformed about crime and unlikely to participate in maintaining justice. It calls for open, participatory and accountable justice including online offender databases, a radical devolution of power to local Justice Commissioners and the establishment of a national police force.

Britons believe that anti-social behaviour is a matter for the police, whereas other countries see it as the role of parents, teachers and the community. Britons are the least likely in Europe to intervene when a crime is taking place. They receive less information about crime, offenders and punishment than overseas counterparts. Despite 66% of Britons wanting to play a role in tackling or preventing crime, instead they are ‘passive bystanders’ reduced to calling for ‘something to be done’.

Pressure for action has escalated as violent crime has increased from 8 per cent of all recorded crime in 1997 to 20 per cent in 2007/08. In particular Tony Blair instituted a ‘turbo-politicisation’ of criminal justice, stepping up legislation and public spending. Taking Nye Bevan’s mantra of Whitehall hearing ‘every bedpan falling in a hospital corridor’, modern politicians now want to be responsible for every ASBO and prison place.

The result is a move from Dixon of Dock Green to the Robocop of futuristic Detroit; mechanical, controlled from the centre and lacking human interaction. This has proved expensive and ineffective. Britain now has the highest spending on criminal justice as a proportion of GDP of any developed country, overtaking the US in the last decade, whilst not scoring highly on outcomes.

Current government attempts to localise amount to little more than a ‘colouring book’ approach, where national politicians dictate detailed targets and parameters, allowing for only a small amount of local autonomy.

Instead, genuine decentralisation to local Justice Commissioners is required; they would have responsibility for end-to-end criminal justice services. This would create:

• Greater local responsibility for funding law and order
• Innovative policing such as low cost wardens, Japanese Koban style police boxes, volunteer forces and specialist ‘hit squads’ that could be drafted in by the local force
• Interactive working between police, probation and correction, tracking offenders end to end and reducing reoffending
• Local debate and decision making about prosecution and correctional measures – for example Surrey could adopt a tougher approach than Yorkshire to prosecuting vandals.

A National Bureau of Investigation would be established with responsibility for strategic issues, serious criminals and high security institutions. Decentralisation should be accompanied by an information revolution, including:

• Offender databases that the public can access with details of sentences and release dates, like those in the US
• Televised and internet based community service, court proceedings and prison stays
• Full expansion of crime mapping

The report’s key findings are:

• There has been a shift in responsibility in the criminal justice system, away from the individual and towards centralised institutions, demonstrated by 76% of Britons believing that the police and courts are responsible for controlling anti-social behaviour, compared to around 45% in France and Germany.
• Six out of ten people in Britain would be unlikely to challenge a group of 14 year old boys vandalising a bus shelter in the UK, more than Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, France Spain and the UK. In Germany, six out of ten would challenge the group.
• British people are more worried about crime and violence with 43 percent reporting it as one of their greatest concerns compared to 21 percent in Germany and 27 percent in the US.
• The UK spends the largest amount in the OECD on law and order as a percentage of GDP, with nearly 40% more in real terms spent in 2006/07 than in 1997/98. This is higher than the US, double that of Sweden, France and Denmark and around 50% greater than that of Canada, Germany and Japan.
• Administration costs across the criminal justice service have risen by around 10% since 2002/03 – faster than frontline expenditure, which has risen by 7% since 2002/03.
• International comparison shows that criminal justice is most effective where it is close to the public and has strong local accountability.

Elizabeth Truss, Deputy Director of Reform and report author, said: “We need to slay the myth that the Home Secretary is responsible for every stabbing and car theft on the streets of Britain. We have to take back responsibility from Robocop.”


But the problem which Reform has rather ignored will be the lawsuits that come your way if Robocop happens to be a Muslim, and he interprets your desire for localism or efficiency as being racist or otherwise discriminatory.


Anonymous Brita said...

There is a chorus to a once popular song:
England swings like a pendulum do,
Bobbies on bicycles two by two;
Westminster Abbey and the Tower of Big Ben,
And the rosy red cheeks of the little children.

How times do change.

Is there any chance that the present state-of-whatever is predicated on the fact that Robocop is a functionary of that old plunderer, euRobbo? And that neither they nor Muslims have anything in common with British religion, law, language, etc? Instead, all of them combine to destroy and replace ('Reform') those things that are ours: to suit themselves, they believe. So... they disconnect us. At our best, we can pray "Forgive them, Lord; they know not what they do."

Live and let live is perhaps what we mostly try to do in response to euRobbos-hence the 'statistics'. But someone on Coffee House has pointed out the difference between tolerance and respect. In the present context I apply this as meaning: nothing in our culture and Scripture says we should LIKE the Enemy, want to emulate them (they are "many"), or do anything to further their causes. And the nastier they get about it, the less we'll have to give.

I wonder if they recognize that as a law of "diminishing returns"?

2 September 2008 at 09:41  
Blogger The Heresiarch said...

So, they think that there is too much centralisation, and then call for a national police force? Strange.

As for their offender database idea: yuk. It would be abused. It would be full of mistakes. It would be yet another IT disaster. And it would be just the sort of scheme New Labour would love. We need fewer of these ghastly databases, not more.

Right diagnosis, wrong solutions.

2 September 2008 at 10:29  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Heresiarch,

To be quite honest, His Grace was puzzled by that disparity also.

2 September 2008 at 10:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noted that whilst watching one of the UK cop shows on tv, that often after a long car chase involving yoof, the story ends with the offender getting so many hours community service and a meaningless driving ban, after all the chase occurred whilst the offender was under a previous driving ban.

Contrast that with the USA, where similar behaviour gets the offender something like ten years in jail.

2 September 2008 at 10:59  
Anonymous Moomintroll said...

To the heresiarch, I do not see the idea of a national police force as really any sort of disparity. I feel it would be a good idea to have a national police force, after the style of the American FBI, and perhaps also take over the duties of the spooks at MI 5, to deal with things like national and international gangsterism and terrorism. This would hopefully released local police to do the things they should be doing, namely dealing with minor crime and anti-social behaviour, which may not be particularly glamourous but is what blights ordinary people's lives, instead of either pushing pens in an office or swaggering round in body armour with sub-machine guns in case Osama Bin Laden should suddenly turn up on their manor.

2 September 2008 at 11:26  
Anonymous WannabeAnglican said...

Of course, your justice system doesn't work -- you give slaps on the wrists to criminals.

When I saw a photo in the Mail of a smash-and-grab artist caught on camera with a caption noting his trivial sentence, that told me all I needed to know about the impotence of UK justice.

(And, by the way, he wasn't a kid either.)

2 September 2008 at 15:41  
Blogger mckenzie said...

Still praying for guidance over this one. All my own personal views and suggestions seem terribly unchristian to say the least.

2 September 2008 at 16:57  
Anonymous billy said...

I try not to be a passive bystander but experience teaches that the police will do as little as possible when a complaint is made.

I saw a copper on a motorbike in central London today and I think he was wearing a holstered pistol. Is that the normal thing now?

Also saw your portrait in the National Portrait gallery, Your Grace. What a strong determined look you used to have about you, I thought.

3 September 2008 at 01:28  
Anonymous Adrian P said...

If they let them off, if Prison is seen as a soft touch, if they Promote 24hr drinking, relax the drug laws, if they Prohibit Parents and Teachers from Disciplining children, if they destroy the Family, then there will be more crime, then they can have the Police state they need to keep themselves in power, Forever.


3 September 2008 at 21:58  

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