Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Parliament's Public Administration Committee casts doubt on police recorded crime figures

Today's report from the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee highlights that police fiddling of crime figures has reached such a height that it recommends all targets should be abolished. In response, Peter Cuthbertson from the Centre for Crime Prevention told the Daily Mail:
"It’s encouraging that this issue is being investigated by Parliament but the findings are damning. 
"There should really be only one way the police make crime figures look better: by catching more criminals and bringing them to justice. Anything else is fiddling the figures."
The consequences of the figures being fiddled are very serious. Under-recording of crime reinforces complacency by the authorities, which leads to punishments being far too lax. It also encourages police to hand out cautions to serious offenders just to meet their targets quickly and easily. All this undermines public confidence and ultimately puts more people at risk of crime.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Judge right to apologise for soft sentencing

As an armed robber was given his third life sentence, Judge Peter Clarke
this month admitted the criminal justice system had erred in releasing him from his second to go on and commit further offences: "I wish to apologise to them on behalf of the criminal justice system for placing them in that position."

Peter Cuthbertson of the Centre for Crime Prevention, told the Daily Mail in response that this was a welcome admission from a judiciary normally oblivious to the consequences of soft sentencing:
"This is a rare and brave example of a judge pointing out that soft sentences put the public at huge risk". 
"The case shows how the phrase 'life sentence' has become a lie that falsely reassures the public. In reality it often means the same inadequate prison term and release after a few years."

Wirral criminal released to reoffend 106th time

The Liverpool Echo has published the results of excellent research into the most prolific criminals in Merseyside.
  • A 40-year-old man from Sefton has been nicked 176 times – and convicted for 65 offences.
  • A 46-year-old criminal from Wirral has been nabbed on 164 occasions – and has 106 offences A 41-year-old from Sefton lifted 134 times – with 41 convictions.
  • A 44-year-old from Wirral with 120 arrests to his name – and 79 convictions.
  • 268 prolific offenders on Merseyside have been arrested a total of 11,237 times – around 42 times each.
Peter Cuthbertson of the Centre for Crime Prevention was quoted in the Liverpool Echo and the Daily Mail arguing:
“Prison is the only sure way to protect the public from hardened criminals. The most prolific offenders are responsible for a growing percentage of all crime, and locking them up would have a massive impact on the crime rate.
“It boggles the mind that any judge can give a light sentence to someone with over 100 previous convictions. These figures for Merseyside are sadly typical of the whole country.
“A huge number of crimes are committed by a relatively small number of prolific offenders who should be in prison for as long as they are a threat to the public. Instead, thousands end up as victims because the courts don’t take the problem seriously.”

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Italian criminals cannot be deported because Italian prisons are too crowded

One of Italy's most wanted Mafia men was given the right to stay in Britain yesterday. Citing the European Court of Human Rights, the High Court claimed that deporting him to Italy would risk his human rights because Italian jails are overcrowded. Peter Cuthbertson of the Centre for Crime Prevention told the Daily Mail: "These rulings and our soft justice system only encourage foreign terrorists and criminals to travel to Britain."

One group that seems guaranteed a right to stay in our country is foreign criminals. If our courts think that even Italy is too backward to treat prisoners humanely then we really have become a safe haven for all the world's criminals.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Crackdown on street crime needed

In response to a 7% rise in street crime, Peter of the Centre for Crime Prevention told the Daily Express that there are ways to avoid putting oneself at risk:
"But the key point is that people should be able to go about their lives without fear of muggings in the first place. 
“A crackdown on street crime, including much longer prison sentences, would deter these thefts and protect the public.”

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Sunday Express is right to call for an end to short sentences for killers

With a killer on a suspended sentence this week given just 4.5 years in prison (2 years, 3 months in practice), the Sunday Express is calling for an end to short sentences for unprovoked attacks causing death.

Peter from the Centre for Crime Prevention is quoted in today's Sunday Express arguing:
“Short sentences for the most serious crimes are a terrible miscarriage of justice that ­needlessly increase the risks to the public.”

Friday, 31 January 2014

Up to 1 in 3 rapes are not taken forward by police

In response to figures showing one in eight alleged rapes are recorded by police as "no crime", rising to one in three in Lincolnshire, Peter from the Centre for Crime Prevention told the Daily Mail:
"It’s extremely worrying how many of the most serious offences aren’t recorded properly. 
"It seems some police forces are being especially underhand about how they improve their figures.
"There’s really only one way police should be reducing their crime figures – catching and deterring more criminals in the first place." 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Cost of prison places for Polish criminals alone in the tens of millions

New figures for the Ministry of Justice show almost 900 of the UK's prisoners are Polish nationals. Normal rules would allow deportation, but with Poland claiming her prisons are too full, these criminals remain in UK prisons, at an annual cost of £35 million.

Peter Cuthbertson of the Centre for Crime Prevention told the Daily Mail:
"With so much crime committed by British people who we can’t simply deport, sending foreign criminals home should be an easy decision. Instead, one in eight prisoners are foreign nationals. 
"These figures show an improvement upon Labour’s poor record, but far more needs to be done. Making foreign criminals face justice in their own countries would free up about 11,000 prison places for serious repeat offenders who are getting off with community service or a suspended sentence."

Friday, 10 January 2014

29,000 criminals avoided prison despite 25 or more previous convictions


29,000 criminals avoided prison despite 25 or more previous convictions

Research from the Centre for Crime Prevention reveals the scale of soft justice for prolific offenders, with some criminals avoiding prison despite 300 or more previous convictions or cautions.
Data from Freedom of Information requests shows that almost 112,000 criminals found guilty of at least their sixth offence in 2012 avoided prison. More than 55,000 avoided prison despite 15 or more previous offences - and just under 29,000 avoided prison despite 25 or more previous offences.

Peter Cuthbertson, author of the report and Director of the Centre for Crime Prevention, said:

“The courts are utterly failing to show they take crime seriously. Prison is the only sure way to protect the public from hardened criminals. The most prolific offenders are responsible for a growing percentage of all crime, and locking them up would have a massive impact on the crime rate. New Zealand recently fought rising crime by letting criminals know that it is ‘three strikes and you’re out’. In Britain, we don’t even have 300 strikes and you’re out.”

The key findings of the report are:
§  28,997 offenders found guilty of a crime in 2012 avoided prison despite 25 or more previous offences.
§  Each time a repeat offender is convicted, their chance of avoiding prison is at least 50% - until they have committed at least 100 offences. To have less than a 40% chance of avoiding prison they must commit at least 300 offences.
§  Over 110,000 criminals caught for at least 6 offences are benefiting from soft sentencing:
·         111,783 criminals found guilty of a crime in 2012 avoided prison despite 5 or more previous offences.
·         88,967 criminals avoided prison despite 8 or more previous offences.
·         55,683 criminals avoided prison despite 15 or more previous offences.
§  The majority of the country’s most prolific criminals avoided prison despite their previous offences often numbering in the triple figures.
·         5,692 offenders found guilty of a crime in 2012 avoided prison despite 50 or more previous offences.
·         1,474 avoided prison after 75 or more previous offences.
·         523 avoided prison after 100 or more previous offences.
·         198 avoided prison after 150 or more previous offences.
·         65 avoided prison after 200 or more previous offences.
·         26 avoided prison after 250 or more previous offences.
·         8 avoided prison after 300 or more previous offences.
§  Contrary to claims that women are treated more harshly by the courts, male criminals with either one or two previous convictions or cautions are more than twice as likely as women criminals to go to prison. Male criminals are also:
·         76% more likely to go to prison after 7 previous offences;
·         34% more likely to go to prison after 30 - 39 previous offences; and
·         9% more likely to go to prison after 50 - 59 previous offences.
§  The areas of the country with the highest percentage of criminals avoiding prison are:

Criminal justice area
Percentage of all persons sentenced who avoided prison (2012)
Persons who avoided prison (2012)
§  The areas of the country with the greatest number of criminals avoiding prison are:

Criminal justice area
Persons sentenced who avoided prison (2012)
Percentage who avoided prison (2012)
Greater Manchester
West Midlands
West Yorkshire
South Wales
Thames Valley

To discuss the research or arrange broadcast interviews, please contact the author, Peter Cuthbertson:
07590 033189

Notes to editors
1. The Centre for Crime Prevention is a campaign for an evidence-based approach to sentencing and policing. The web site is The CCP aims to:
·         uncover the facts about how many serious and repeat offenders avoid prison every year
·         counter naive wishful thinking that puts vulnerable people at risk by failing to incarcerate those who are a danger to others
·         support beat-based zero tolerance policing
·         put victims of crime and law abiding citizens first

2. The full report can be downloaded from here.

3. All data is taken from Freedom of Information requests to the Ministry of Justice, or from published MOJ statistics.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Vicky Pryce and the necessity of tougher sentencing

Peter Cuthbertson, Director of the Centre for Crime Prevention

Vicky Pryce’s views on criminal justice are drearily predictable. One needn’t get very far into her prison diary/criminal justice polemic Prisonomics to see this.

She thinks prison is overused. She even pulls out the old misleading chestnut about how we “send more people per 100,000 of the population to prison than any other country in western Europe”. (It’s misleading because if you compare prisoner numbers to the number of criminals, rather than the mostly law-abiding general population who plainly have no place in prison, our country is actually very average.)

She argues that the prison population should at very least be cut in half “and perhaps continue then to decline”. Yes, she prefers community sentences. Why don’t politicians listen? Populism. Only an easily-refuted splash of feminism distinguishes her views in any way from the elevator pitch of the usual well-funded prisoner groups. The number of women in prison should be cut by 97%, we are told - after all, most women criminals only do it because a man tells them to.

No one should be cowered by her credentials into agreeing readily. Nine weeks in prison for perverting the course of justice on Chris Huhne’s behalf hardly makes her an expert. Indeed, it seems very unlikely Pryce believed anything very different before she found herself in a prison cell. It is difficult to think of anyone in the country demographically more likely to favour a lower prison population than a Liberal Democrat-voting civil servant on her way to Holloway Prison.

Other reviewers have pointed to other features of the book – in particular how shameless and banal much of it is. They are right.

But none of the above points necessarily mean that Vicky Pryce’s central argument is wrong.

Does prison deter? Does it rehabilitate? And if it does neither, what is the point of it? All of these are fair questions. Pryce answers that prison fails either to deter or rehabilitate, so we should slash prisoner numbers and use community penalties far more.

Pryce is wrong not because she is conventional, lacking in expertise, banal or shameless. She is wrong because these premises are shaky, and the conclusion doesn’t remotely follow.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The problem with short sentences is they're too short

Lord Neuberger's comments questioning the value of short prison sentences made the front page of today's Daily Mail. Peter from the Centre for Crime Prevention was quoted arguing:
"It’s a huge mistake to view sentencing only from the point of view of criminals, without thinking of their many potential victims. Even short sentences can give communities a respite from hardened criminals. Putting away serious, repeat offenders for even a few months can prevent dozens of crimes. 
"But longer prison sentences do have a much better record for cutting reoffending. If Lord Neuberger thinks short sentences don’t do the job, figures show we should use prison for longer rather than not at all."
The Mail also quoted the Centre's paper in February showing how many prisoners had previously received community sentences.

Peter also appeared on LBC's Nick Ferrari show to make the case against Lord Neuberger's views.

Douglas Carswell MP took a very similar line: "What a surprise! A senior official in the criminal justice system sees things entirely from the point of view of the criminal. Until we democratise the appointment process for judges, judges are never going to be on our side. Of course a prison sentence is going to disrupt the life of the criminal – that’s the ruddy idea, your honour. In my constituency, there are people who would say that if short sentences are a problem, just make them longer."

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Police should stop crime, not spread complacency

This week senior police admitted crime figures are consistently manipulated to show a positive story - often not recorded at all. Peter from the Centre for Crime Prevention told the Daily Express:
“It was brave of police to confess to this. We know that the manipulation of crime figures has been going on for a long time. There is a real danger in spreading complacency about crime rates when many vulnerable people’s lives are being ruined.”
Understating crime is an important weapon for politicians and elites who wish to under-react to crime. It allows them to dismiss more easily calls for tougher sentencing and robust policing.

It is worth addressing one response to such admissions - which is to say that we have no idea whether crime is falling or rising. The problem with this claim is the idea that massaging figures is new. Police and government have always presented crime figures in the best light, so manipulation of the figures cannot explain the dramatic fall in crime since the early 1990s. The doubling of the prison population is what explains it.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

148,000 criminals caught this year had 15 or more previous convictions

In response to the news that 148,641 criminals caught in the year to March 2013 had 15 or previous convictions, Peter from the Centre for Crime Prevention told the Daily Mail:
"These are appalling figures. Thugs are going through a revolving door of probation and soft justice and then reoffending time and again.
"We need to do far more of what works – tough prison sentences. Locking up serious, repeat offenders cuts crime and protects the public."

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Prison inmates working at call centres set up in jail

The Centre for Crime Prevention's Peter Cuthbertson was quoted in The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, the Daily Mail and Metro in response to news that prisoners are operating call centres and cold-calling the public to ask about their possessions:
"Trusting criminals with people’s financial details is incredibly naive. Burglars will know who to target when they are released."
He was also quoted in a follow up story by The Sun on the same prison letting prisoners out for driving lessons.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

More thieves should go to prison, not fewer

On Wednesday, Peter from the Centre for Crime Prevention was quoted in the Daily Mail and ConservativeHome on a call from the Howard League to forbid prison for all cases of theft, fraud, forgery, criminal damage and handling of stolen goods.
"These extreme recommendations are callous towards victims and show a complete ignorance of the facts.
"Only an ivory tower academic who started out determined to reduce prison numbers whatever the evidence could reach this conclusion.
"Theft is not a 'minor offence'. Victims can find their lives transformed by fear. Making a promise to thieves and fraudsters that they will never go to prison is ridiculous.
"Already the courts bend over backwards to give criminals  community sentences and fines which fail to protect the public. Prison protects the public.
"More prison places and longer sentences would be better for  victims and most likely to turn these thieves’ lives around."
Another author on ConservativeHome, Peter Hoskin, explored on Friday the idea of cutting prison numbers, citing the rise in the prison population since 1990.

In response, Peter from the Centre for Crime Prevention cited the slightly more telling graph below, writing on ConservativeHome in response to Hoskin and to the Howard League report.

Peter wrote:
"Yes, it's simple and yes it's tediously intuitive and commonsensical ... but having more criminals in prison rather than outside prison really does cut crime...
"Hoskin doesn't endorse Ashworth, but nor does he give his recommendations the scorn they deserve. We're only just emerging from a banking crisis: telling a corrupt banker in the City that he won't go to prison no matter how many millions he steals from customers is, to put it mildly, a bad idea. Telling thieves that no matter how many people they steal from they won't go to prison is a bad idea.
"As well as flying in the face of reality, there's a real callousness about such thinking that a lot of people would be right to find troubling. It shows no sympathy for victims at all. Whether it's the shopkeeper plagued by thieves or the pensioner whose entire life savings are stolen, arguments for scaling back the prison population are unavoidably about trivialising the pain and loss that victims feel in order to justify soft justice."