Criminals being left off without even having to show up in court in England.

With England facing twice the violent crime rate as the US, the system is starting to fall apart. As Don Kates wrote to me: "To conserve scarce criminal justice resources England has now moved from not investigating burglary and assault to not prosecuting even the few thugs the police manage to identify and catch." He also noted that since handguns were banned in 1997 violent crime reported to police have gone up, not down as promised.

Burglars will be allowed to escape without punishment under new instructions sent to all police forces. Police have been told they can let them off the threat of a court appearance and instead allow them to go with a caution.
The same leniency will be shown to criminals responsible for more than 60 other different offences, ranging from arson through vandalism to sex with underage girls.

New rules sent to police chiefs by the Home Office set out how seriously various crimes should be regarded, and when offenders who admit to them should be sent home with a caution.

A caution counts as a criminal record but means the offender does not face a court appearance which would be likely to end in a fine, a community punishment or jail. . . .

Well, given the failure of the government to prosecute these criminals, this next article in the Daily Mail is not too surprising:

Six out of ten muggings are never reported because the public have lost faith in the police to do anything, it emerged last night.
The devastating verdict is delivered in a report by Demos, one of Tony Blair's favourite think-tanks. It reveals plummeting public confidence in the police means tens of thousands of offences go unreported.

If, as research cited by Demos suggests, police are not told of 58 per cent of muggings, the 80,780 offences recorded last year would in reality number 192,000.

The list of unreported crimes also includes 35 per cent of violent attacks by strangers, 38 per cent of burglaries and 42 per cent of thefts from vehicles.

Tory home affairs spokesman Nick Herbert said: "When such large numbers of people aren't even reporting offences, the true level of crime is far higher than official figures suggest. . . .

For a picture from the Economist magazine showing how robbery rates have changed over time follow this link (the commentary there is also useful).

Of interest: The results of an online poll of people reading this English newspaper can be found here. Last I looked 94 percent thought that the courts in England were too soft on criminals.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is rather misleading. There are two sources of data about crime in the UK. The crime reported to the police and the British Crime Survey (BCS). The BCS figures are considered more reliable by most commentators, particularly for determining trends, as the rules for reporting crime have changed twice in the last 10 years (and possibly the propensity for victims to report crime changes over time).

The BCS figures show a drop in crime every year since 1995. The reported crime figures have risen but much of this is due to changes in reporting standards. The last two years (since the National Crime Reporting Standard was introduced) show a drop.

I believe that UK homicide rates, although higher relative to the US than in the 1980s, are still about 20% of the USA. Not bad for a system "falling apart".

I don't know who promised a drop in crime following the handgun ban in 1997. It would be absurd to make this promise. Hardly any UK citizens carried a handgun either before or after the ban. So it could not be expected to have much effect either way. The ban was clearly addressed at limiting the damage that extreme nutters such as Thomas Hamilton can do. There have been no incidents of this type since the ban was introduced.

Finally I would recommend treating everything The Daily Mail writes with extreme scepticism. Like all UK newspapers, it is prone to sensationalism and highly selective use of data.

I hope this is of help.

Recent UK crime information can be found at:


4/09/2006 3:45 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Obviously, I disagree.

1) In the United States the media as well as academics focus on crimes reported to police, not the national crime victimization survey, in discussing crime trends. The national crime victimization survey indicates violent crime peaked in 1981. The UCR indicates it was 1991. While I can give academic arguments, the public debate over why violent crime fell during the 1990s should let most readers decide which measure is taken most seriously in the US.

2) UK homicide rates are indeed lower, but they were even much lower relatively before gun control laws were passed there. Murder rates have either stopped falling or started rising after gun control laws were passed.

4/28/2006 1:02 AM  

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