The criminal justice system

At the same time, there have been attempts to tackle the problem of what is now called social exclusion; that is what happens when people or areas suffer from a combination of problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown. Labour sees this as an attempt to strengthen 'community'. Since 1997 new labour have passed a huge range of criminal justice legislation, so far 11 major criminal justice acts, strengthening laws from car crime to terrorism. During labours time in office there have been some key legislative milestones

In 1998 labour established and co-ordinated local crime prevention work through the setting up and funding of crime and disorder reduction partnerships. 1999 saw the introduction of anti social behaviour orders. By the year 2000 there was a criminal justice white paper proposing radical reform of the criminal justice system. In 2001 the government reduced the arrest to sentence time for young offenders from 142 days to 71, this fulfilled labours 1997 manifesto commitment. 2002 saw the highest ever police numbers. From these facts we can see that labour has achieved a lot in their time in government.

This is a pattern that is likely to carry on, labour have proposed further action concerning criminal justice, in a speech to government in 2002 Tony Blair proposed 6 new key components to labours criminal justice policy: Firstly labour aims to tackle the social causes of crime - the best defence against crime is stronger families and a stronger sense of personal responsibility. Secondly labour are aiming to take a zero tolerance stance on anti-social behaviour. Thirdly there is to be specific action on the link between drugs and crime (Ending the vicious circle of drug related crime)

Labour also aim to use measures to curb organised crime. There is to be root and branch reform of the criminal justice system - reforms to close the gaps in the criminal justice system. Lastly labour propose a policing reform - Rebalancing the criminal justice system also means helping the professionals in it. (Adapted from Tony Blair's speech June 2002) New labour seem to have a clear plan of what's needed to make our society a fair one, and by looking at the statistics available it would appear that labour have done what they promised. There are many problems with the reliability of official statistics.

Statistics cannot be used on their own to prove or disprove any particular point or argument. A problem with statistics is that they can be used to show anything used in the right way. Official statistics although appearing genuine can be open to much bias when being collected and analysed. The statistics new labour use appears to be very impressive and on first impression it would be easy to believe that labour have achieved what they promised in 1997. In the information pages I viewed from the labour website we are not always told where the statistics have actually come from.

There is also the problem in the research, when carried out research can be manipulated to show what a person wants us to see. This may apply to labour, the government want us to believe that they have achieved their aims, only a few select statistics are used to reiterate this point. We are not seeing the full picture, there is research to show that labour are not doing what they promised and the view of the public is some what different to what labour believe it is. Crime statistics are problematic. Crime has risen (official figures and BCS) and so has public disorder (violent crime up) crime up in 2000.

Hooliganism a growing problem as is public perception of rising crime. Research from the British crime survey shows that 'Only 44% of people believe the criminal justice system is effective in bringing people to justice. Only 39% believed the system was dealing with cases promptly and effectively, and 36% felt confident that the criminal justice system was effective in reducing crime' (British crime survey 2002) We are now seeing conflicting views and statistics about the reliability of the criminal justice system and new labour policies related to it.

Another problem is something we encounter with all politicians and that is propaganda, politicians will use any means to make their view points and policies more attractive to the society, promising massive change and a better society is a favourite among them. Once in power a government has to work hard at keeping up the image that they are doing what they promised. It is no different for Tony Blair and new labour. This ties in with the use of statistics; they can be used to a politician's advantage especially when trying to show evidence that they are fulfilling promises.

This is a rather cynical view of politics; Tony Blair and new labour have made an impact on the British criminal justice system, crime prevention, and community safety. The government has done many things to improve the society we live in. What must be decided is to what extent and is there anything else that should be done. There is much room for improvement in the criminal justice system, the way it is run the way it handles cases the way it prosecutes to name a few. For these factors to improve takes time, effort and most importantly money.

The views of the government in power will determine how important the criminal justice system is on their agenda. New labour have taken criminal justice as one of their main concerns, Tony Blair aimed to put a lot of time and effort into re-building it. When considering what improvements new labour could make there are many things I could suggest, but I feel that new labour have considered everything and have made clear aims in areas that really need changing. Whether they have achieved this change is yet to be seen. In conclusion, I feel labour has attempted to do a lot concerning crime prevention and community safety.

Taking a tough on crime and tough on the caused of crime stance was an ambitious one, the causes of crime are far reaching and have spread into all areas of social life. To fix this 'problem' Tony Blair and the labour party are going to have to make all aspects of social life better and fairer for everyone. It means giving help to those disadvantaged and less well off than others. It means fixing deep-rooted problems in a person's life. It means tackling the problem of unemployment, the problem of youth crime needs to be attended to, and this ties in with better education to give the youth of society the chance at a better future.

It is not just social factors that need solving; there are many legislative problems within the criminal justice system. Areas such as probation, police and prisons need to be focused on, better managing and handling of cases is just one problem, sentencing is another issue that needs looking at. In fact for Tony Blair and the labour tackling the problem of crime is one of the biggest they challenges they could undertake. It means a re - structure of the society we live in and this no easy task.

This is why we cannot be too critical of new labour, when a government comes into power they have to work with the situation they are given changes cannot happen overnight. For a substantial effect to take place time is needed. Labours policies have been that of common sense, Tony Blair is not telling us anything we did not already know, it is the way that he intends to tackle it that means something to society. New labour have made a substantial change to crime prevention policies and community safety for example the 2003 white paper on anti social behaviour will be a big step in trying to put a stop to this type of crime.

Anti -social behaviour can effect anyone and at some point I would expect we have all come across it. Legislative policy and reforms on other areas have been successful but we do not see these as much, some of them are things, which do not effect the everyday life of a normal person. On the other hand I do not feel that new labours policies have been far reaching enough and in recent years Tony Blair has been heavily involved in foreign policy. The problems of home have taken a back seat. As I have said new labour cannot be criticised heavily but I feel that there is a lot more that could be done.

Tony Blair and new labour also realise this and so are constantly setting new aims for themselves and society, it is not the aims that are a problem it is the actual carrying out of them that leaves a lot to be desired. Finally I feel that labour has made a considerable effort to make community safety and crime prevention more efficient, there is a large amount of criticism for new labour and Tony Blair as its leader. Crime will always be present in society and so expecting a government to completely solve it is asking for the impossible, especially as society is constantly changing its views and attitudes.

Crime is an on going problem and therefore so is crime prevention and community safety. It is an important task for any government in power, it is irrational to expect one government to come up with some kind of 'cure' it takes work from everybody in society not just those in charge.

Bibliography

  • Criminal justice an introduction to the criminal justice system in England and Wales - Davies, Croall, and Tyrer 1998 Dispensing justice, responses to crime vol. 4 - Lord Windlesham 2001
  • Controlling crime - Eugene McLaughlin and John Muncie 1996 Criminal justice, text and materials - Wasik, Gibbons, and Redmayne 1999 www.bbc.co.uk