Victims choose offenders’ punishment under Labour’s anti-social behaviour review

Victims choose offenders’ punishment under Labour’s anti-social behaviour review

Benjamin Cooper, PA

Thu, 29 December 2022 at 3:02 am GMT

The victims of anti-social behaviour could choose how offenders are punished under plans being pitched by Labour.

The opposition has positioned itself as the party of law and order, with shadow justice secretary Steve Reed saying he will update Tony Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” slogan and put prevention at the heart of their approach.

The Times said freedom of information requests showed nearly two million reports of anti-social behaviour had gone unattended over the past three years, while community sentences halved over the last decade from 185,265 in 2011 to 72,021 in 2021.

Criminal justice consultancy Crest Advisory attributed the decline to magistrates losing confidence that the sentences would be completed, the paper added.

Mr Reed said increasing and strengthening the use of such sentences would tackle reoffending rates and give “a voice directly to victims.”

He told The Times: “Victims will be able to select the unpaid work that offenders carry out, so victims will be seeing justice done.”

Labour wants to widen the scope of community sentences work beyond tasks such as clearing wasteland, decorating community centres, repairing churches and removing graffiti.

It also proposes victims sit on new community payback boards overseeing sentences and ensuring they are completed.

Mr Reed said he wants to update Mr Blair’s 1990s slogan about being “tough on the causes of crime” by reviewing how to put prevention at the heart of the criminal justice system.

The review will look at how countries including New Zealand have adopted an approach of providing specialist treatment to prevent reoffending by those living with domestic violence or parents with serious mental health problems.

Mr Reed said: “Rather than just giving up on those people or letting them get out there and offend, I want to keep people safe and keep our community safe.

“You can do that by tackling the effects of the trauma that leads them to offending. By doing it, you make them much less likely to offend again.

Tony Blair
Labour successfully occupied the law and order territory under Tony Blair (Victoria Jones/PA)

“So if you really want to keep people safe, we’ve got to update Labour’s old slogan: ‘Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ and make it fit for the future.

“This whole science around trauma in early years didn’t exist in the early 1990s when Tony Blair came up with that phrase. So I want to update it for today.”

The party branded as “disgraceful” recent figures showing more than one million thefts went unsolved last year.

An analysis by Labour of crime statistics found that 1,145,254 cases of theft were dropped last year because the police failed to find a suspect.

It said that on average a domestic burglary costs victims £1,400, with the party warning that families were losing millions due to unsolved crimes.

Labour said that if it was in government, it would put 13,000 more police on the streets in a move funded by merging procurement for forces in England and Wales.

Earlier this year police chiefs in England and Wales promised that forces will attend all residential thefts.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper on Tuesday called the figures “disgraceful”.

“Theft and burglary are awful crimes and should be properly investigated, not just left for the victims to make an insurance claim.

“The Home Secretary has no plan to turn this around and is instead obsessed with gimmicks rather than a serious plan to catch more criminals.

“Labour has a fully costed plan to put 13,000 extra neighbourhood police on our streets, fighting crime at its source and supporting communities.”

The party also found that the overall charge rate, which is the proportion of crimes that result in a suspect being arrested and charged, has fallen to a low of just 5.4%, down from over 15% seven years ago.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “As the Home Secretary has made clear, we welcome the commitment for police attendance at home burglaries.

“We continue to support the police, including through record investment and the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers by March 2023.”

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