UK Liberty

New criminal justice policy review

Posted in law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on March 28, 2007

You may have heard that Tony Blair today (27 March 2007) announced proposals for more reforms of our criminal justice system (also here).

The document, Building on progress: Security, crime and justice (PDF 4,198 kb), can be downloaded from the Number 10 website.

I’ve yet to thoroughly read it but I would like to mention a few things that caught my eye.

Much of it is about reforms already in place.

There is once again talk of rebalancing our rights and responsibilities.

There is the suggestion that we should “intervene” in a child’s life earlier than the age of eight if we think they are at risk of future offending. I don’t yet know what constitutes an intervention. Also there will be “universal checks throughout child’s development to help service providers to identify those most at risk of offending”. Does that send a chill down your spine?

You’ll notice some enthusiastic quotes sourced from a “Citizen Summit”. Mr Summit isn’t a person – the following passage explains all:

Citizen involvement in the Policy Review
The Government has ensured that citizens’ views have directly fed into the Policy Review by hosting a series of deliberative forums in Manchester, London, Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds to discuss how citizens would deal with the difficult questions that ministers and civil servants face every day.

These discussions centred around three core themes:

  • how to improve customer services in the public services;
  • how to encourage culture change to improve local communities; and
  • how to update the relationship between the citizen and the State.

The forums culminated in a Citizen Summit at Downing Street on 3 March 2007, at which 60 members of the public discussed how to improve public services.

One quote from Citizen Summit:

Sure Start was really good for parenting courses – “strengthening the family, strengthening the community” – really good to bring you into the community. Helped loads of people in area.

This is in a light blue box to the right of, and in a slightly larger font size than this in the main document:

there are a number of additional government policies and programmes (such as Sure Start) which cannot yet be evaluated fully

It seems to me that this begs the question, does Citizen Summit know what he’s talking about? Clearly not in that instance.

(Indeed, if I recall correctly the Government itself concluded that the people getting involved in Sure Start weren’t necessarily the people the Government most wanted to help with the programme – I will strikethrough if I can’t find a reference)

The Ipsos MORI site has a more in depth explanation of the deliberative forums and Citizen Summit. Ipsos MORI organised them. I will try to find the questions/propositions put to the forums and summit. I had heard rumours that some were rather leading but I will see if this is true or not.

Just a little something from the Ipsos MORI site:

There was clear evidence that the more people get into an issue and think about its implications the more prepared they are to reappraise their personal views. People often find it very helpful to hear the views of others in reaching their final conclusions.


Another quote from Citizen Summit:

People should share information – if we’ve got nothing to hide, why are we worried?

Data abuse.

On page 44, it is claimed that facial recognition works.

Another strange passage:

The Government has provided significant funding for IT advancements that facilitate greater access to, and sharing of, information within criminal justice agencies. Recent examples include the £367 million of funding provided to develop a national police database (the IMPACT Programme), and the development of the Airwave radio communications system, which enables officers to access the Police National Computer while in the field.

The police computer system, Impact, was delayed for three years (orginally due for 2007), total cost increased from £164m to £367m and ‘it had emerged that the task was more complex than first thought’ (more detail here).

There were problems with the procurement and rollout of Airwave (citation needed, just an early NAO report at the moment).

i.e. not all rosey.

On the one hand,

Looking ahead, the Government will make greater use of evolving crime detection technologies. The emphasis will be on striking an appropriate and mutually acceptable balance between the legitimate risk-based gathering of information and intelligence by the state and the public’s expectation of privacy, free movement and lawful action.

Citizens are asked to accept the gathering of greater levels of information and intelligence in the knowledge that this will facilitate improvements in public safety and law enforcement.

Bad – I’d rather be shown some evidence than simply accept it.

On the other,

The Government will undertake further work on how best to create a set of strong safeguards and measures to protect the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens. As part of this, clear rules will be put in place regarding how such information and intelligence is to be used, and systems will be established to ensure that the information is used appropriately.


Yet another strange passage:

expanding the DNA database to all suspected offenders who come into contact with the police.

Doesn’t this happen already? Oh, it’s just arrests, according to the BBC.

There is no suggestion that drugs should be legalised. Some critics of government drug policy argue that drug legalisation would cut crime.

The Government proposes more summary, preventative and civil powers to tackle criminal activity. I’ve written about the orders already available for use.

Here we go again:

crime investigation – data for 2005/06 indicates that 1.32 million offences were brought to justice nationally, an increase of 170,000 on the year before.

I’ve written about what “offences brought to justice” means. In summary, the number of successful convictions has declined, as has the successful convictions as a proportion of the total number of offences brought to justice. Example figures can be found on Hansard.It is the contributions made by ‘non-convictions’ – cautions, formal warnings, Penalty Notices for Disorder, and offences “taken into consideration” by the courts – that have allowed the Government to meet its (unambitious) targets.

I don’t know whether or not this is a good thing.

I’m sure that police officers such as PC Copperfield will be very glad to hear the Government wants a Police Service that

is free from the burdens of unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape, with fewer targets and mandates from the centre.

The Government has created a “new range of offences”

designed to address the new forms of terrorism and the behaviour that leads to terrorism. These offences also allow the police and security services to intervene earlier in ‘threat to life’ operations. For example, legislation has been introduced to create a new offence of ‘acts preparatory’ to terrorism.

I’m not entirely sure what was wrong with conspiracy to murder and other, older, non-terrorist specific offences. Indeed it seems more terrorists are convicted of offences under non-terrorism specific legislation.
Again on terrorism,

the period of detention for terror suspects prior to charge has been extended, giving the police more time to undertake their investigations. The value of this change has been demonstrated in the investigations into recent plots, which have been larger and more complex than previously seen.

Has its value been demonstrated?

On a lighter note, it seems clear that Ipsos MORI is a member of this conspiracy that Mr Charles Walker MP (Broxbourne, Conservative) recently accused Mr William Heath and Ms Ruth Kennedy of being a part.

Mr Heath and Ms Kennedy, I think that unwittingly you are part of the conspiracy which basically says that your elected representatives are useless so you should go over the top of their heads and go directly to government.

I wonder if Mr Walker now feels he has a more appropriate target for his ire.


4 Responses

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  1. […] New criminal justice policy reviewI wish I’d said that71% of the public mistrust politiciansI wonder…Uneducated man says all children must stay at school until 18How to treat a heroand yet more law and order legislationHarriet Harman in favour of more openness and accountabilityCCTV to be regulatedThe Telegraph on the surveillance society […]

  2. Ben Page said, on March 28, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Just noticed your comments about the exercise we conducted for the Cabinet Office as part of the government’s Policy Review – this showed that as people debated information sharing by government they became more rather than less worried – and would only be reassured by “strict controls” on who saw it. The report and other details of the exercise are all on our site – let me know if you have any other queries about the exercise and I’ll try to help
    Ben Page
    Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute

  3. ukliberty said, on March 29, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Thank you very much Mr Page, I greatly appreciate that information.

  4. […] powers have ceased to be summary April 2nd, 2007 I mentioned in my post on the Government’s new criminal justice policy review that it proposes more summary, […]

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