5 key themes in Justice Policy

Centre for Crime and Justice Studies invaluable annual round-up of key UK justice policy developments.

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Trends in Justice

Today (25 June 2018), the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies publishes its invaluable annual review into key justice policy developments across the UK. Volume 7 covers from the Brexit Referendum (24 June 2016) to the General Election of 8 June 2017.

The CCJS review always makes for a fascinating read. Below are 5 key facts that I have plucked from this year’s document:

1: There has been a surge in hate crime

The divisive images of migrants deployed in some EU referendum propaganda were not easy to forget, but it is sometimes hard to recognise that public events have consequences for private experiences. So it was still possible to feel a shock when official sources confirmed that the EU referendum – and the Westminster Bridge attack in March 2017 – had contributed to increases in police-recorded hate crime, much of it racist in intent.

2: Police numbers down again

In the year from March 2016, there was a one per cent decrease in overall police officers in England and Wales: a small decline, bearing in mind that between 31 March 2010 and 2017, police officer strength had fallen by 17 per cent, or by 20,592.
The numbers suggest that Police Community Support Officers – supposedly the life-blood of community-based policing – were especially vulnerable to cuts. Indeed the Chief Inspector lamented the decline of neighbourhood policing more generally but seemed reluctant to engage in criticism of staff reductions. While police numbers had declined, it was observed that central government funding was to be sustained in real terms from 2015.

3: Spending and staffing

One of my favourite components of the CCJS annual review is their data dashboards. The wheel below offers an at-a-glance view of the key criminal justice data in England and Wales at three points in time: the 2012/13, 2015/16 and 2016/17 financial years. This means key criminal justice changes can be seen over a short and longer time period. The chart is divided into four domains:

  1. Spending: how much was spent across the different agencies and fields of operation (e.g. police, legal aid, prosecution).
  2. Staffing: how many people worked in the different agencies and fields of operation.
  3. Criminalising: the criminal justice caseload, from the point of an offence being recorded to the point of conviction.
  4. Punishing: the main outcomes from convictions: fines, community supervision and imprisonment.
The report also contains parallel data dashboards for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

4: From physical to virtual courts

In England and Wales, a strategy and consultation, Transforming Our Justice System, was launched in September 2016. It called for a shift away from a default approach of ‘advocacy before a judge in a physical courtroom’ to a mixed economy of ‘online, virtual and traditional hearings as best meets the circumstances of the case’. For some minor offences, it should be possible for defendants to ‘resolve their cases immediately using an entirely automated system’. More ‘old, small, inefficient, yet expensive to maintain’ court and tribunal buildings would ‘be closed over the next four years to fund investment in fewer, more modern buildings’.

5: More people are dying in prison and on probation

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of the growing levels of violence in prison and the increasing number of deaths of people under probation supervision.

The CCJS infographic below summarises the key facts around deaths in prison and on probation for both Scotland and England and Wales.

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