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December 31, 2006

The view from the probation service

(link) In support of his battle with the government to prevent privatisation of the Probation Service, the assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher of the probation union, NAPO recently said,

“….re-offending by those on community sentences was at least 13% lower than those released from jail.”

Continue reading "The view from the probation service" »

December 23, 2006

Police cell measures come to end

(link) Emergency measures to hold prisoners in police cells are due to end on Saturday, the Home Office has said. The arrangement known as Operation Safeguard came into effect in October to ease an overcrowding crisis in prisons in England and Wales.

The number of inmates topped 80,000 for the first time in history last month.

Data from the National Offender Management Service shows the prison population now stands at 79,627.

Hoorah, the prison population is falling. This must mean that crime is falling……….. doesn’t it?

Continue reading "Police cell measures come to end" »

November 23, 2006

Offenders put into care?

In the first post in some time (due to work commitments), we find that the government is introducing a "holistic solution" to the overcrowding in our young offenders institutions. Young offenders could be placed in childrens homes - places ordinarily a refuge for the vulnerable. These plans are contained within the Offender Management Bill, which went through its first Reading in the House of Commons on the 22nd November 2006, and also contains the provision to change Probation Boards into business-like Trusts, giving the Home Secretary new powers in the provision of services from the private sector.

It appears that the government haven't considered (at least) one important thing; there is a disproportionately large number of criminals in prison from the care sector.

November 07, 2006

Parole and probation woes

The first post by me in some time is a news review - several related stories on the probation service have hit the newspapers today. Apologies for not posting more often, but I have been too busy at work. Expect a normal service for the time being.

According to figures published by the Parole Board, a record number of life sentence prisoners freed on parole were recalled in the past 12 months. 140 "lifers" were returned to prison last year, compared with 90 in 2004-05 and 26 in 2000-01 (Times; Mirror; Mail).

In a related issue, John Reid the Home Secretary, has argued that the probation service isn't working as well as it should to tackle the rate of re-offending (Guardian). Another example of the Probation service's failings is that crime victims who give information in parole hearings can risk their attacker finding out because confidentiality is not guaranteed (Telegraph).

And finally, thanks to the BBC, we find out that serious offenders released to bail hostels can come and go as they please - without supervision - to the point where two child sex offenders were filmed befriending children (BBC; Telegraph).

October 14, 2006

Violent killer escapes from prison day trip for second time.

Here is a typical example of the modern “soft-on-crime” policies currently being pursued with such blind zeal in Britain today.

(link) A violent criminal who murdered a man after fleeing a prison boat trip has escaped for the second time - while on a shopping trip to Debenhams.

Continue reading "Violent killer escapes from prison day trip for second time." »

October 13, 2006

Child sex offenders to be put on list 99

We find out today that all child sex offenders will be barred from working with children.

Continue reading "Child sex offenders to be put on list 99" »

October 12, 2006

Nearly 8000 offences by tagged criminals

And 1000 of these crimes are violent. One murder, four manslaughters, fifty six woundings and more than seven hundred assaults, one hundred cases of possessing an offensive weapon, one incident of causing death by reckless driving, one hundred of obstructing police and sixteen other violent attacks have been carried out by criminals since the early release Home Detention Curfew scheme came into force.

Overall 7,896 offences had been committed by prisoners whilst tagged. A total of 131,000 have been given HDC between the start of the scheme and the end of June 2006, but there is little effect on the 2 year reoffending rate from this scheme. Today’s report said there is "insufficient evidence" that tagging helped to reduce re-offending or rehabilitate criminals. This scheme was introduced to deal with an earlier prison overcrowding crisis - offenders serving between three months and four years are eligible to be released on an electronic tag up to 135 days before the end of their sentence.

The one murderer - Danny Cann, 27, a convicted robber - killed Stephen Cox in North London in January 2005 by battering him to death with a baseball bat and a hammer in revenge for a headbutting, only weeks after walking out of jail on HDC. He was jailed for life at the Old Bailey last December. Cann should have been wearing the tag at the time of the murder but was not. It has never been found.

None of these crimes would not have been committed, if these criminals had been in prison. Furthermore, it is more evidence that non-custodial sentences do not work; we do not have any evidence to show that reoffending is decreased, and the fact remains that nearly 8,000 reported crimes would not have been committed if these criminals had been in prison for the full length of their sentence. Schemes such as these are not a solution to prison overcrowding - the only solution being building more prisons, well before they are needed.

Interesting that the figures have not been announced in a press release on the Home Office website. You can rest assured we will be returning to this issue in more detail, even if the Home Office are not happy to.

October 08, 2006

The Arguments of some prison reformers do not stand up to even the mildest scrutiny.

This article is a critique of some arguments presented by three prison reformers in a BBC report published today which explored the current prison overcrowding crisis(link).

Needless to say, the building of more prisons did not feature highly in the recommendations of the prison reformers.

Continue reading "The Arguments of some prison reformers do not stand up to even the mildest scrutiny." »

Prisons full

Over the last few days, we find out that our prisons are full. As of the 5th October, there were only 160 spaces available in the whole country. In August, the Home Office were found out, when their secret plan to release hordes of dangerous criminals early to our streets was made public. People cannot rob you when in prison - but if released early, they can. This policy has some secondary effects as well - it also demolarises the police. There is nothing more demoralising for police (and victims of crime) to see offenders released early.

The Home Office said "all options" we open to reduce the prison population.It did not take long for the leading classes to decide prison isn't the answer - not because it doesn't work, but because they are too foolish to have spotted this problem a year ago, and build more prisons before it came to a crisis. Now we hear that fewer people should be put in prison in the first place.

So "all options" that they are considering is a wholesale retreat from the one of the most effective ways of reducing crime - putting criminals in prisons.

The best kind of crisis management is that which avoids the crisis. Unfortunately, the chaotic Home Office do not know this. We need to build prisons, not next year, not next month, but now. That is the safest way, and one of the most economical, to deal with the increasing prison population and reduce crime.

September 28, 2006

Restorative Justice.

No one can deny that there is an increasing outcry for a tougher criminal justice system from the public. Hence sound bites and spin like “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.” from our government. And yet, in the world of academic criminology it’s business as usual.

The latest buzz words are “restorative justice.”

(link) A new 'soft justice' row erupted last night as it emerged teenage burglars are being told to paint posters instead of going to jail.

Continue reading "Restorative Justice." »

September 27, 2006

Police 'did nothing' after young teacher was hit in face

There appears to be a lot of anecdotal evidence these days that our police are increasingly reluctant to tackle crime. Whether this is a resource problem, a reluctance to fill in forms, apathy because they know that the courts will often put criminals straight back onto the streets, or orders from on high to manipulate crime statistics I cannot say.

I’m sure many of us have a friend or a family member who can tell similar stories to the one below that appeared in today’s press. We certainly seem to be getting more reports like this in the media than we did in the past.

(link) A primary school teacher punched in the face by a drunken thug was stunned when police refused to arrest her attacker.

Continue reading "Police 'did nothing' after young teacher was hit in face" »

September 25, 2006

The Stone Report

After a 6 year battle through the courts, the report on Micheal Stone has finally been released.

In 1981, Stone received a two-year prison sentence for attacking a man with a hammer during the course of a robbery. In 1983 he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for two counts of actual bodily harm after stabbing a friend in the chest. In 1987 he was jailed again - this time for 10 years - for armed robbery on a building society in Brighton. He was released in 1993. In 1996, as they walk home along a country lane in Chillenden, near Canterbury, Kent, Dr Lin Russell and her two daughters were attacked by Stone wielding a hammer. Dr Russell and six-year-old Megan died while nine-year-old Josie survives with severe head injuries and brain damage.

Stone suffered from a personality disorder together with drug and alcohol abuse, which made his case complex. He could appear aggressive to one person and cooperative to another almost simultaneously. He had stopped taking medication and admitted to his psychiatric nurse he wanted to kill, days before the 1996 murders. He even appealed for help to tackle his addiction whilst on remand from one of his earlier convictions, but he was told to approach the addiction services on his release.

Yet, the conclusion of Robert Francis QC, the chair of the report, is

"emphatically not a case of a man with a dangerous personality disorder being generally ignored by agencies or left at large"

His history was clearly one of increasing violence, he asked openly for help, yet he was given none. Is there a case for changing the law, whereby those people with escallating violent tendencies are incarcerated until such time they pose no, or limited, danger to the public? Should the protection of the public take precedence over the protection of human rights of criminals?

There are those that would argue this man was ill and therefore prison was no place for him. But in this particular case, prison would have worked. However, one thing that should happen, is for prisons to address the mental health and drug addiction issues of the prisoners whilst they are in prison.

We shall return to this report soon.

September 23, 2006

Home Office Policy: based on assertions, not evidence?

The battle rages on over an open prison in Monmouthshire, where seven offenders have absconded in recent months - including two convicted paedophiles and a murderer. Defending the criticisms regarding housing such serious offenders in an open prison, the Home Office made a statement:

There have been open prisons for 70 years and they are the most effective way of ensuring that prisoners are tested in the community before they're released. It helps reduce re-offending rates: to release prisoners directly from a closed prison, without the resettlement benefits of the open estate would undoubtedly lead to higher levels of post-release re-offending. All those who are in open prisons have been rigorously risk assessed and categorised as being of low risk to the public.

Whilst it is quite reasonable to expect prisoners to be tested in the community before release, and that might have an effect on the liklihood of reoffending, we would like to bring notice to the guarded words this press secretary used. The phrase " would undoubtedly lead " suggests that they do not know if it effects the liklihood of reoffending.

All we ask for is that policy is based on evidence, not assertions, especially when it involves such things as public safety.

Police try to discourage crime, by not acting on a tip-off

Cheshire police received a tip-off that armed robbers were about to strike at a jewellers in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. In response, they left an empty police car in the street adjacent to Henry Johnstone's shop. Hours later, gunmen in business suits walked straight past the car and stormed in threatening staff with guns. The gang - thought to be responsible for a series of terrifying raids in the area - took watches and jewellery worth more than £500,000 before escaping in a car parked at the back of the shop.

David Baines, Cheshire Assistant Chief Constable, said:

"I regret on this occasion it was not enough and an offence did occur causing considerable distress to those involved. We are reviewing what we did, if it was appropriate in light of the information, and could we have done more, and to learn from that."

Prisons work, but only if we catch criminals.

September 21, 2006

'Prison plan' for Dover army barracks

(link) “A disused army barracks in Kent will be converted into a prison, according to reports. The site of Connaught barracks, near Dover, is allegedly to be used as a low-risk Category D prison for up to 500 prisoners.

It is hoped that the move by the Home Office to use the old Ministry of Defence site will ease the pressure on prison places.
Officials are trying to battle a rapidly increasing prison population. Government figures released on Friday revealed that the number of prisoners in England and Wales was 79,145, leaving only 800 spare places.

Continue reading "'Prison plan' for Dover army barracks" »

September 19, 2006

Brutal child murderer on early release

A killer jailed for life for kicking a toddler to death, is working days and weekends in the community as he prepares for his release from prison. Baird (35), described by Lord Justice Murray as a "thug and lout of the worst kind", was jailed for life in 1992 for murdering Phillip Carton, who died from massive internal injuries. The courtroom heard that Baird hit and kicked the boy in the stomach before grabbing him with both arms, lifting him off the ground, kicking him and dropping him on the ground.

He is on an early release program - enjoying day release for a work placement each week day and on a Friday evening he is granted temporary weekend release, returning to prison on Monday.

September 17, 2006

'Lifers' let out: trippled in five years

The number of life-sentence prisoners being released from jail has almost trebled in only five years. The annual total of "lifers" allowed out onto the streets has risen from 125 in 2000 to a record 351 last year.

Twenty-six of the 1,500 freed since 2000 have subsequently been convicted of further serious sexual or violent crimes. 14 per cent of the 125 prisoners released in 2000-01 were recalled for re-offending or breaching licence conditions. But 28 per cent of the 330 life sentence prisoners released in 2003-04 were returned to jail. Between 1999 and 2001 only 17.2 per cent of applications were approved, but between 2002 and 2004 that figure rose to 21.5 per cent.

Is this increased reoffending rate evidence for slipping standards when choosing who should be released? The Human Rights Act of 2000 gave life sentence prisoners the right to read and challenge reports written about them. Are parole panels or the probation service being more lenient because of the HRA? Are the rights of criminals being put before those of the public? Are more sentences being called 'life', when the minimum time imprisoned set by the judge is only a few years, in an attempt to reassure public opinion?

One thing is for sure - all of the crimes these released prisoners have committed would have been prevented if the criminals had remained in prison - for life.

September 12, 2006

Murderer escaped from open prison

Lee Dewhurst, 35, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, did not return to the jail on 11 July, but officers only confirmed he was missing this weekend. Dewhurst, who was jailed for murder in 1992 is the seventh inmate to abscond in the last three months, including two child rapists who had only just been transferred there. The day after these two escaped, someone convicted of burglary absconded.

Why dangerous, violent criminals are housed in open prisons is something we must obviously look into. It could be that these particular criminals met all of the stringent criteria for being housed in an open prison. On the other hand, it could be due to prison overcrowding. We should also address the question about whether criminals convicted of violent crimes should be housed in open prisons at all. Watch this space!

Original article published: 11.09.2006 at 08:50:59
The escaped murderer in question, Dewhurst, is now suspected of a string of robberies on men in York, Huddersfield and Halifax. It has also been revealed that he was originally convicted of bludgeoning a 35-year-old homosexual singer named Stephen O'Hara to death, in October 1991, in Kirkholt, using a monkey wrench. At his trial in 1992 it was revealed he had wrapped Mr O'Hara's body in a carpet. He then burned his own clothes and those of his victim. Dewhurst told an acquaintance who noticed a "smell of rotting meat" at his maisonette that he intended to take the body to a stone crushing plant.

The question must be asked again - why was somebody as cold, calculating and brutal as this man transfered to an open prison? Was it because of prison overcrowding?

September 11, 2006

Volume 4 Proceedings in magistrates' courts

The latest batch of statistics for small-time crime has been released. You can rest assured our eagle eyes are on them already.

Watch this space.

September 10, 2006

offenders released without checks

Nearly four out of 10 serious sexual and violent offenders released from prison on licence are being freed without being screened for their risk to the public, according to a report published today by official criminal justice watchdogs.

The investigation was ordered after a catalogue of disastrous failures in the supervision by probation and police officers of released serious offenders, culminating in the murder of the financier John Monckton at his London family home by Damien Hanson soon after he had been released early from a 12-year sentence for attempted murder.

Wouldn't just be safer, and simpler, to keep them in prison?

September 06, 2006

Manchester prison unused capacity: 1

Overcrowding in Greater Manchester's jails has become so serious that prison officers say conditions are similar to those just before the Strangeways riot. The prison, now known as HMP Manchester, is currently housing nearly 300 more inmates than recommended. At Forest Bank in Salford there are 1,063 prisoners - just one less than the jail's maximum capacity.

How difficult must it be to build more prisons?

Mixed sex cell block

A redevelopment of Jersey's prison is nearing completion. A new cell block is being built at to house both sexes. The prisoners are due to move in later this month.

It's beyond belief!

August 28, 2006

Inmate sues... for being an inmate

An inmate at an Oxfordshire jail is suing the Prison Service after he cut himself falling from the top bunk in his cell.

No wonder he got caught!

On a more serious note, earlier this year it emerged that compensation payments to prisoners doubled from £2.19m in 2004-05 to £4m in 2005-06.

August 16, 2006

Home Office plans to release criminals

The Home Office is drawing up plans to release thousands of prisoners early, to free up cells in overcrowded jails. Inmates in England and Wales could be released 10 days early under the plans - known as the "transitional home leave" scheme.

As of today, the prison system is nearly full and has room for only another 700 inmates The scheme would not apply to sex offenders or violent criminals, but to "low-risk" inmates serving between four weeks and four years. Yes that's right - criminals could receive a 33% reduction in their sentence. Why do the Home Office not realise that building more prisons is cheaper to economy than crime, let alone the hidden personal costs of living through the pain of being a victim of crime?

July 08, 2006

107 burglaries in 6 months

Trevia Malcone Cohen, 37, from Rhyl, pleaded guilty to 107 burglaries or attempted burglaries between December 2005 and May 2006. He targeted jewellery in the raids in the Abergele, Rhyl and Prestatyn areas. Supt Barry Jones said after sentence at Chester Crown Court: "This man brought misery to great deal of people, many of whom are elderly."

And one thing is for sure - whilst in prison, this man will not be able to rob anyone. Prison may not be perfect, but put criminals in prison and they can't commit crime.

June 30, 2006

Police fail to chase bike thief - because he wasn't wearing a helmet

Hard to believe, but police in bath chose not to chase thieves who stole a £1,200 moped, as they were worried that the police force would be sued if the criminals fell off the bikes and hurt themselves.

Whatever happened to common sense?

The Backdoor Liberal Response To The Public’s Call For Tougher Prison Sentences

Do I detect a new trend in prison sentencing?

Following the blaze of publicity over recent weeks concerning lenient sentencing, including the MSM assault on the government, and (I hope) a growing awareness on behalf of the public of the failure of the current liberal “soft-on-crime” agenda, the government must feel that they need to do something, and do something urgently. They have two options. To bow to the wishes of the dissenters, such as myself and all those who support a tougher criminal justice system, or to wriggle, spin, mislead, or generally lead us to believe they are getting tougher whilst in reality doing the opposite.

The following story leads me to believe the latter.

Continue reading "The Backdoor Liberal Response To The Public’s Call For Tougher Prison Sentences" »

June 27, 2006

Our version of "Megan's Law"

Just over a week ago, John Reid announced he was sending a minister to America to consider a UK version of Megan's law. This headline grabbing tactic, no doubt to 'recapture the agenda', will either come to nothing or have serious implications to the safety of our children.

Continue reading "Our version of "Megan's Law"" »