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Criminal

Rioting sentences 'excessive and arbitrary', study claims

A review of sentencing following the 2011 riots in England has shown that sentences were much harsher than realised at first. The study was carried out by The University of Manchester and Liverpool John Moores University.

Dr Hannah Quirk, a senior lecturer in Criminal Law and Justice at The University of Manchester, was the co-author of the research, which was published in The British Journal of Criminology in October. She said: 'Whilst the offending may have been impulsive, sentencing should not be.'

The summer riots of 2011 were commonly described as the worst in living memory due to the speed with which they spread over such a wide geographical area. The disorder began after Mark Duggan was shot dead by the police in Tottenham, north London.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 February 2015 10:13

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Crime survey shows another fall, while reported crime remains steady

Latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in July, show that there were an estimated 7.3 million incidents of crime against households and resident adults (those aged 16 and over) in England and Wales for the year ending March.

This represents a 14% decrease compared with the previous year's survey and is the lowest estimate since the survey began in 1981.

The CSEW covers a broad range of victim-based crimes and includes crimes which do not come to the attention of the police. Decreases were evident for most major crime types compared with the previous year - violence saw a 20% fall, criminal damage fell by 17% and theft offences decreased by 10%.

In contrast, according to the ONS, police recorded crime shows no overall change from the previous year, with 3.7 million offences recorded in the year ending in March. Prior to that, police recorded crime figures have shown year-on-year reductions since 2002/03.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 10:34

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Criminal courts head for a digital revolution

Picture of a gavel and a keyboard for Your Expert Witness storyThe Government is moving ahead with provisions for all criminal courts in England and Wales to be able to operate completely digitally in two years time.

The plan is that criminal cases will be handled digitally “from the moment a crime is committed through to the conclusion in court”.

The process forms the backbone of the Criminal Justice System Digital Business Model, which was launched by the then-Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green in April.

He announced the new model at Bromley Magistrates’ Court in South London, which became the first the first in London, and one of the first in the UK, to be equipped with new digital presentation facilities.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 17:20

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Criminal advocacy report prompts swift responses and measured reflection

Picture of Bill Jeffrey for Your Expert Witness storyThe market in criminal advocacy is not working competitively or in such a way as to optimise quality, according to an independent report published on 7 May. The report, Independent Criminal Advocacy in England and Wales, is the product of a review commissioned by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and undertaken by former civil servant Sir Bill Jeffrey.

With crime falling and criminal proceedings simpler, says the report, there is less work for criminal advocates to do, with more advocates than even a few years ago. Yet the report found disquiet among judges about the capabilities of some of the advocates appearing before them.

Its specific recommendations include improved advocacy training for solicitors, encouragement of the Criminal Bar to be willing to adjust its way of doing business, to enable it to compete for legal aid contracts, and the timely assignment of advocates.

It also draws attention to the longer term implications if current trend towards the use of solicitor advocates and away from the Criminal Bar continues. Sir Bill is clear that it would be neither feasible nor desirable to wind the clock back on rights of audience. Solicitor advocates are a valuable and established part of the scene; but if the Bar’s share of the work continues to decline, as the current generation moves to retirement, the supply of top-end advocates to undertake the most complex trials would be in doubt.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 May 2014 17:32

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Audit office publishes review of changes to criminal justice system

Picture of Reading Prison from Geograph for Your Expert Witness storyOn 7 March the National Audit Office published its ‘landscape review’ of the changes that have been implemented to the criminal justice system over the past months.

The Criminal Justice System: Landscape Review examines whether current reforms of the criminal justice system are addressing the issues identified by the spending watchdog in past studies on, for example, the prison estate, police technology, bought-in services and financial management.

It draws on NAO value-for-money studies and audits of financial statements and documentary evidence in the public domain to highlight the many challenges to an efficient system.

In a statement the NAO says: “Major changes are being made to the criminal justice system at the same time as significant reductions in resources. At the end of March 2013, for example, the number of police officers was some 127,000 – or 10% lower than three years earlier.”

A two-year programme of reform was set out in the White Paper Transforming the CJS, which was published last summer. The changes include reforming the prison estate by closing old and inefficient prisons, such as Reading Prison (pictured), while investing in modern prison accommodation, and the establishment of the Criminal Justice Board. A minister has also been appointed with responsibility for Policing and Criminal Justice.

The reforms have been intended to address many of the systemic problems by understanding the causes. In particular, says the report, efforts are being made to reduce the demand in the system by tackling those offenders with the highest rates of reoffending and improve the use of new technology for sharing information between partners. The NAO, however, says it is too early, however to comment on whether they will be effective.

“There remains, however,” it says in its statement, “much to be done to tackle inefficiency and reduce the multiple points of failure within the system. Potential initiatives include replacing the manual transfer of data with well-designed digital transfers between agencies; and developing a strategic approach to improving the collection rate of fines and confiscation orders, both to offset running costs and to demonstrate that crime does not pay.”

The review concludes that the effects of multiple, concurrent changes are difficult to model but are likely to be significant. Although organisational changes can be implemented relatively quickly, implementing deeper changes to working practices, system developments and cultures will take months and years.

In addition, if the system is to achieve real efficiencies and planned cost savings, then departments, agencies and local criminal justice partners need to implement as a priority an agreed and coherent plan to address problems with the flow of information.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 March 2014 09:07