IN recent months it has been announced that some police forces in England and Wales, including Durham, are running ‘deferred prosecution’ schemes. These allow violent offenders, burglars and thieves to escape prosecution if they agree to a period of four months ‘rehabilitation’, supervised by a police officer (1). The offender will be offered ‘help’ with drug taking and other problems, erroneously believed to be the drivers of crime. If the offender commits more offences during the four-month programme, or breaches the conditions of the referral ‘agreement’ he will be prosecuted. If the offender does not come to notice during this period he will not be prosecuted and the relevant crimes will not go on his crime record.
This scheme bears the fingerprints of the Marxist ‘social conscience’ warriors who have been marching through the corridors of our justice system with an increasingly heavy tread for the last five decades.
It is alarming for many reasons. Firstly, it ignores the evidence which shows that the supervision of offenders in the community has always been and remains a disaster for the public. Furthermore, the reconviction rates of supervised offenders are worse now than they were forty years ago. In 1979 they were 41 per cent measured over two years (2). They are now 56 per cent measured over one year (3); rates that continue to increase when the period of supervision terminates; and after nine years reach 70 per cent (4). This equates to millions of crimes committed by those given ‘community sentencing’ every year.
In addition, not one of the many concocted rehabilitation programmes run for offenders over the last 50 years, for example, Intermediate Treatment schemes, Day Centre programmes, ‘What Works’ programmes, Drug Testing and Treatment Orders, Drug Intervention Programmes, Prolific Offender Units, Intensive Supervision rogrammes, Restorative Justice programmes, the Troubled Families Project, to name but some, has had the slightest reformative effect on offenders referred to them. In some cases their offending has increased after attendance on these schemes (5). Government rehabilitation drug schemes aimed at persistent criminals have a long history of failure and it’s no wonder.
Few, if any, have put robust and uncompromising methods trialled in other countries to the test.
If the lazy and liberal British approach was going to work, it would have done so by now. If poverty, inequality or personal problems were the drivers of crime that it assumes, then the solution should surely focus on the culture that creates it – fatherlessness, collapse of marriage, feminised schooling and absence of sanctions. Not the misplaced tick-box battery of help, therapy and support provided, free of charge, to offenders. Throughout this remarkably long time span, criminals have shown, again and again, that they commit crime because they want to, because it pays and because they can – there is no sanction, moral or legal; there is no deterrent.
Given this failure, on an industrial scale, of all these would-be rehabilitation efforts, why have the police taken this current initiative? Is it possible that the senior management of the Durham force and other police areas are not aware of this dire record? What has given them the confidence to believe they can succeed where everyone else has failed? What strange logic makes them think that not prosecuting criminals will encourage them to stop offending?
Even the failure of a similar deferred prosecution trial in the West Midlands, which ended in 2014, has not deterred them. This project tracked 414 offenders over two years and found that the ‘amount and severity of reoffending by those on deferred prosecutions was lower, or no worse, than those who were prosecuted’ (6). This is research-speak. It means it was a failure, and six years after the scheme finished, the criminologists at Cambridge have still not published the results. Is this because they are embarrassed by them?
Secondly, these deferred prosecution schemes are based on the discredited idea that imprisonment does not work to reform offenders or protect the public. Short prison sentences give the public a break from persistent offending. Longer prison sentences are associated with significant falls in reconviction rates (7).
Thirdly, and just as disturbing, is that it is the police who have instigated this scheme. It is yet one more indication that their crime fighting role has been corrupted by expectations that they should become social workers in uniform.
As early as the 1990s, a former senior civil servant in the Home Office had begun to spread the Marxist poison that ‘the purpose of dealing with crime was not always served best by enforcing the law’ or ‘by controlling and punishing crime’ (8).
Many rank and file police officers were appalled by such cant but many of the senior echelons, who understood what their masters wanted, willingly fell in line and joined the cultural revolution. Or was it to ensure their future preferment that they so readily joined forces with ‘partner organisations’ in the community to tackle the ‘root’ causes of crime? Some senior officers began to publicly argue against tougher jail terms (9); to criticise the use of imprisonment generally (10); to support the giving of free heroin to offenders who were addicts (11) and to speak out against zero tolerance (12). One police force passed out hundreds of ‘welcome packs’ to released prisoners containing advice on alcohol and drug-related problems (13).
There is no record of Parliament speaking out or registering its concern over these developments.
On February 14 2020, the Guardian reported that ‘Durham’s pioneering police scheme slashes reoffending rates’. Similar claims were made for past ‘flagship’ rehabilitation schemes, all of which were found to be unsubstantiated and which were then either quietly abandoned or continued under a different name.
More than 2,660 offenders, who have committed offences such as burglary and assault, have taken part in the Durham police experiment, in which the public have been used as unconsenting guinea pigs. The scheme will run until 2022.
The organisers report that to date only 166 (6 per cent) have reoffended.
There are numerous deceptions embedded in this claim. They do not know how many have reoffended. They only know how many have come to notice. As only approximately five per cent of crimes are cleared up, it is likely that most, if not all of the remaining 2,494 have also committed crimes which have remained undetected (14).
The figure of 166 refers to offenders, not numbers of crimes. Past studies have indicated that criminals commit between 140 and 150 crimes each per year (15). On this basis, using the deliberately conservative figure of 120, we can estimate that the 166 offenders may have committed over six thousand crimes in the four-month period. Even if the figure is half of that total, this scheme is already a disaster for the public and should be abandoned. This, we must remember, is before we take into account those of the remaining 2,494 offenders who will, in all likelihood, later come to notice as a result of their continued offending.
If these schemes are extended, what will happen when offenders generally realise that large numbers of their offences will not be prosecuted?
Is not the first duty of government to protect its citizens from harm?
The detailed story of the failure of rehabilitation schemes points to the lie at its heart – that crime is a symptom of economic inequality and of a personal and social malaise that results, which the understanding state can rectify. It is an insult to the law-abiding poor.
These latest deferred prosecution programmes have been set up as if this history did not exist. It demonstrates all too clearly how the police have succumbed to the poison of Marxist ideology that continues to run unchallenged through our justice system.
Most chilling of all is that no one in authority seems in the least bothered.
(1) The Guardian, February 14, 2020, ‘Durham’s pioneering police scheme slashes reoffending rates’
(2) Home Office Statistical Bulletin, Issue 34/86, Reconviction of those given Probation Orders, published 1986
(3) Ministry of Justice, 2013 Compendium of reoffending statistics and analysis
(4) Ministry of Justice, Compendium of reoffending statistics and analysis, 2010
(5) Rehabilitation Schemes:
Intermediate Treatment Schemes.
Introduced by the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. This introduced the absurd idea of ‘intermediate treatment’, which in effect meant that young offenders who had committed offences such as burglary or other forms of theft were to be rewarded with holidays and other activities such as sailing and riding lessons. The message aimed at the public was clear. It was society’s fault that these youngsters had turned to crime, therefore society had to make it up to them. A report from the University of Sheffield (1999) reported that they made no impression on the numbers of crimes committed by the young. Taylor. P. Demanding Physical Activity Programmes, University of Sheffield, 1999.
Home Office, Probation Statistics England and Wales, 1993.
This bulletin shows that the reconviction rates for the majority of offenders (those under 30 years of age) attending these centres was 67 per cent measured over two years. Seen as ‘flagship’ schemes to reduce offending, they were a disaster, and were quietly dropped.
What Works Programmes
These programmes were a catastrophic failure, with reconviction rates of up to 80 per cent for the ‘cognitive skills’ and ’substance abuse’ programmes. Reported in:
Accredited Programmes, NAPO News, Issue 157, March 2004
S. Merrington and S. Stanley, ‘What Works’: Revisiting the Evidence in England and Wales, Probation Journal, 5:1, pp. 7-20,2004
‘Jail thinking courses show you can’t teach an old lag new tricks’, Times, August 7, 2003.
‘Prisoners fail to curb the inner man’, Times, November 18, 2003
‘Release me from this paperwork’, Times, August 5 2003
Home Office Research Findings, no. 161 (2003). An Evaluation of Cognitive Behavioural Treatment for Prisoners
Drug testing and Treatment Orders (DTTOs) and Drug Intervention Programmes (DIPs).
DTTOs were found to have reconviction rates of over 80 per cent measured over two years.DIPswere found to have worse reconviction rates, measured at 55 per cent over one year for adults only.
Home Office Bulletin 15/04 Offender Management Caseload Statistics 2003, published December 2004
Home Office Research Findings no. 184: The Impact of Drug Treatment and Testing Orders on Offending: Two-year reconviction rates
Prolific Offender Units
In 2000, seconded staff from the police, prisons and probation service formed teams to focus on persistent offenders. They were helped to find work, encouraged to stop their drug-taking and offered assistance with other problems thought to be the cause of their criminal behaviour. Sometimes even their offending was ignored in an attempt to ‘divert them away from the criminal justice system’, as contact with it was believed to contribute to their criminal way of life. A number of these units were established and they all failed to have even the remotest impact on the offending of the criminals referred to them.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Operation ARC (Addressing
Repeat Criminality), University of Exeter, p. 3, 2001
Eighteen Months Later: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Project
ARC in the Medium Term, University of Exeter, p. 50, November
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Operation ARC (Addressing
Repeat Criminality), University of Exeter, p. 75, 2001
Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme:
Between 2001 and 2005, more than 9,000 young offenders were referred to the ISSP scheme; 91 per cent were reconvicted within two years of completing the programmes. Daily Mail, 28 October 2005.
Restorative Justice Schemes
The much vaunted ‘restorative justice’ programmes (which require offenders to apologise to their victims and sometimes provide some practical compensation) have all failed to stop offenders from committing crime.
Research into four of these schemes found they had reconviction rates of between 40 per cent and 71 per cent measured over two years: Home Office Crime Reduction Series, Paper 9. Exploratory Evaluation of Restorative Justice Schemes 2001
Troubled Families project
The aim of the programme was to help disruptive and damaged families raise themselves out of poverty by helping them find work, and at the same time cut their crime rates, truanting, drug abuse and anti-social behaviour. After providing planned and consistent help to 20,000 families (approximately 40,000 to 80,000 people) over five years, it was found to be a lamentable failure. In 2015, an independent consultancy reported that despite the £1.3billion of tax payers’ money spent on the scheme, it had failed to have any effect on the crime and other problems mentioned above.
‘Cameron’s £1billion help for problem families a flop’ Daily Mail, August 9 2016
(6) The Guardian, February 14, 20202, ‘Durham’s pioneering police scheme slashes reoffending rates’
(7) Longer prison sentences are associated with much reduced reconviction rates as follows: less than 12 months 60 per cent, 12 months to two years, 39 per cent; two to four years, 34 per cent; four to ten years, 25 per cent; ten years plus, 14 per cent.
Ministry of Justice Proven reoffending statistics quarterly: October 2013 to September 2014 (then choose Proven Reoffending Tables: October 2012 to September 2014. Table C2a)
(8) David Faulkner:Building a system on evidence and principle: law, structure and practice. Published in Vista, Perspectives on Probation, vol.3 no.3 (Spring 1998)
(9) Police chiefs reject Tory tough line, Sunday Times, July 28, 1996
(10) ‘Cost of youth crime would provide 100 new hospitals a year’, Daily Mail, July 26, 1997
(11) ‘Give addicts free heroin, says chief constable’, Independent, February 4, 2002
(12) ‘Police leader casts doubt on zero tolerance’, Sunday Telegraph, October 19, 1997
(13) ‘Devon and Cornwall Police hand out Welcome Packs to convicted criminals’, Plymouth Herald, October 13, 2003
(14) Home Office Research & Statistics Department, Digest 4: Information on the Criminal Justice System in England & Wales, 1999; Home Office Statistical Bulletin, Issue 21/98, The 1998 British Crime Survey, England & Wales
(15) The Halliday Report, Making Punishments Work, published by the Home Office, July 2001 (140 offences per year per offender).
Hertfordshire Police, A Survey of Recidivist Offenders, 2010. This estimated 154 offences per year for each offender.