In what was probably his last speech as Justice Secretary last week, David Gauke recommended his smart justice approach to whoever Boris Johnson appoints as his successor. A key part of Mr Gauke’s argument for an evidence-based approach to tackling crime was the figure of £18.1 billion which research published by the MoJ on the same day revealed as the annual societal costs of reoffending.
The Economic and Social Costs of Reoffending, authored by Alexander Newton, Xennor May, Steven Eames & Maryam Ahmad, estimates the costs of reoffending based on a cohort of offenders that had either been released from custody or had received a caution or non-custodial conviction between January to December 2016, and who then went on to reoffend over a 12-month follow-up period, as defined in the proven reoffending official statistics.
In addition to providing an overall figure for the costs of reoffending, the researchers analysed the costs of different types of offences broken down into three main categories of costs (also shown in the graphic below):
- Costs in anticipation of crime
- Costs as a consequence of crime
- Cost in response to crime.
The main findings of the report were:
- The total estimated economic and social cost of reoffending was £18.1 billion.
- The estimated economic and social cost of reoffending by adults was £16.7 billion.
- Theft reoffences made up most of the estimated costs for adults compared to other offence groups, at £9.3 billion, followed by violence against the person reoffences, at £4.2 billion.
- In terms of index disposal type, adult offenders who had previously received a court order or custodial sentence accounted for the largest portion of estimated costs, at £6.5 billion and £6.0 billion respectively.
- The cost of reoffending by children and young people (i.e. those under the age of 18 at the time of entry into the cohort) was £1.5 billion, with theft comprising the largest portion compared to other offence groups, at £532 million.
- Reoffences committed by children and young people who had previously received youth rehabilitation orders or first tier penalties as their index disposal type incurred most of the costs, at £510 million and £468 million respectively.
- The cost of reoffences committed by adults who had previously received a custodial sentence of less than 12 months was £5.0 billion whilst those who had served a sentence of 12 months or more cost £1.0 billion. The cost difference is primarily driven by the greater number of offenders receiving shorter sentences compared to those receiving a longer sentence. The equivalent costs for reoffending by children and young people were £52 million and £22 million respectively.
As well as the intrinsic interest of these figures, they are invaluable for people like myself who want to calculate cost benefit analyses of particular offences. For example the supplementary tables issues alongside the report enable us to calculate the total economic cost to society of an individual offence of robbery as £11,907 comprising the following components:
Preventative measures £250; Harm £3760; Health Service costs £788; Insurance administration costs £149; lost economic output £997; police costs £1,053; loss of property £1073, victims’ services £11 and other criminal justice costs £3,827.
Any organisation which is looking to work with young robbers can seek to prove its impact and argue that every robbery it prevents saves the country nearly £12,000.