It is not possible to determine exactly when society in the UK declared war on its children. It's very statisfactory progress has been illustrated by research undertaken by the Institute for Public Policy Research.
New research shows that Government targets means many thousands of youths are being criminalised for minor offences and anti-social behaviour without any impact on re-offending rates.
A great deal of this criticism relates to ASBO's introduced in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 by the Nu Labour "Tough on Crime and tough on the causes of Crime, " which were re-inforced by the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. The biggest criminal justice-related charity in England and Wales, he National Care and Resettlement of Offenders has published 2 major reports the fir in2002 said they were a failure , costly and slow (and one third were breached within 9 months), and a second in December 2006 after an NAO report, "Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour" on ASBO's, criticising the haste in which courts applied them before alternative remedies had been tried and pointing out that 55% of them were breached.
This was of course, we now know a pattern we have seen for the past 10 years by this Government, rarely objected to by the Conservative Party , of seeking to address every perceived social problem with a legislative , and invariably punitive response response invariably at the expense of personal freedom, and requently as part of an element of the state to control behaviour, especially of minorities.
This has diverted police pursuing Government inspired targets away from preventing and investigating severe crime, which disrupt societies and lead to social breakdown, such as drug dealing, human trafficking and controlling the supply of alcohol.
A direct consequence is turning young people into lives of crime, increasingly re-inforced by custodial sentences and learning in what have for decades been called Universities of crime helping them along the road to a life of crime. being dumped into the forbidding and unyielding criminal justice system at an early age increases the likelihood of re-offending.
IPPR's research , much of it only made available by Freedom of Information requests ( the police are remarkably reluctant to share their information lest theycan be judged on the facts) shows that targets to bring offences to justice led to a disproportionate focus on minor offending by young people, despite no increase in offending in that period. The rsults since target were introduced in 2002 include :
1. A dramatic 25% in the numbers of under 18's entering the formal criminal justice system
2. For under 15's this figure has risen by 33%.
3. The level of crimes involved to induct people into the criminal justice system has fallen.
The consequences of these changes in policing - and the perpetual chasing of targets has been disatrous.
The Government wanted to cut youth custody by 10 % by 2007/08, it rose by 6%. While youth justice has received the largest increase in spending of all the main criminal justice agencies excluding probation - 45% in real terms since 2000-1 - more children have been criminalised and imprisoned, the study by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies found.
Let us not forget that this must be considered against a background that the UK spends
proportionately more on law and order than any other country in the OECD, including the United States and major European Union members such as France, Germany and Spain.
In this Financial year this amounts to £22.7 billion. Nearly 66% is allocated to the police, who have seen growth inf dunding by 1% in real terms between 1997 and 2005. This has led to an overall increase in police numbers and probation service spening in that period up 160%.
This is not new, or recently discovered, the Daily Telegraph reported almost exactly a year ago on 27th June on the Youth Justice Board Annual Report
-" Minor offences are disproportionately committed by young people; therefore as greater volumes of lower order offences are detected by the police,so the number of young people who offend and are brought to justice increases. ".
Their research includes a breakdown by region of increases in criminalisation of young people since 2002, which are as high as 98% in Cheshire and in England and Wales averages 27% compared with 11% rise in cautions and charges for adults. (see full chart for all Police areas) See here for how Chief Constable fail to understand how ASBO's are supposed to work.
In 5th October 2007 Jacqui Smith appointed Louise Casey (and there are 2 ladies who won't be taking the Miss UK Title from me !) to report on Connecting Communities with the Fight Against Crime - this was long on "reflect(ing) the high priority the Government places on tackling the fear of crime" ... ie not on the much contested methods of calculating crime figures.
Anyway the combative Casey produced an excellent report last week (8 months .. that must be a record ) and probably her most encouraging Proposal was numbered 30 to match her dress size : Combined with a dramatic reduction in its approach to targets, monitoring, assessments and intervention, the Government should ensure that, in its place, an overriding measure of public confidence is used, with performance reported to the public at ward, local authority (Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership), force and national levels.
To this she adds the very sensible Proposal 23 and 24 which involve providing the public with more detailed information about action being taken to tackle crime.... opportunities to meet local police teams and influence their priorities, and details of crimes committed, with feedback on what sentences offenders have received. Further more the Government and/or the Statistics Authority should consider what more could be done to develop a more dynamic and interactive website that maps local crime information and allows the public to compare levels of crime and the performance of criminal justice services in their area.
A public, that is better informed is a public far better armed and far more capable of helping the Police undertake their tasks . - Catherine Archer the CEO of the West Yorkshire Police Authority which unfortunately doesn't cover this area where I am canvassing your votes , pointed out in a letter to the the Daily Telegraph on Saturday that they already have such a website - she says , "we have received nothing but positive feedback".
This is a superb example (which everyone should look at - examples are proved here by Lord Patel's excellent technical staff) of the sensible use of the internet to inform public debate, to integrate public officers by sharing their information with the public to re-inforce joint action - especially in the area of Youth crime and youthful Anti-social behaviour. Unsurprisingly the journal Criminal Justice Matters called their latest June issue "Criminal justice policy making too often 'an evidence-free zone' and Professor Simon Hallsworth, Government adviser on `gangs' and violence, dismisses policy on tackling Violent Crime as `flat earth crime science' and not an "evidence driven policy'.
Professor Rod Morgan, ex Youth Justice Board Chairman and former Chief Inspector of Probation in reflecting on his Government service says he was `incensed... by the incomprehension and arrogance regarding the research process which some administrators displayed.....in politically highest-profile policy areas, such as anti-social behaviour ... where there was little or no evidence base."
Ministers now faced with the collapse of their decade of failure are uncertain how to treat youth crime , is it a law and order issue or i it a matter of social policy. With the break up of the Home Office a little noticed a little-noticed change placed responsibility for youth justice removed from the Home Office and shared out between war criminal Jack Straw's Justice Ministry and the Children and Family Department, headed by Ed Balls.
The tsunami of initiatives has had very little impact - according to a heavily leaked Whitehall document this incoherent and muddled policy on youth crime has led (according to aleed Whitehall document) to 25% of under-18s having committed an offence and high re-offending rates remaining unchanged since the dawn of Nu Labour.
The best Freedom we can have is Freedom of access to information ... join me in demanding that Freedom. Concealing the facts for decades has not produced a result, let the sun shine in on on our strets and what is happening on them.Short cut to My Blog and all my speeches here