Taking a broader approach to justice
27 November 2012
Westminster is wrong to focus on England and, occasionally, Wales, to the exclusion of Scotland and Northern Ireland when it comes to criminal justice policy, says Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
In November, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies released the first edition of UK Justice Policy Review (UKJPR), an annual publication tracking criminal justice and social justice developments in the UK. With support from the Hadley Trust, UKJPR covers developments in the first year of the UK coalition government – May 2010 to May 2011 – across the three UK criminal justice jurisdictions of England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
Scotland and Northern Ireland are often overlooked by those primarily interested in the politics of the Westminster bubble. As a result, developments in England and Wales tend to be taken as representative of developments in the UK as a whole. This is clearly not the case. UKJPR is the antidote to the Westminster criminal justice policy bubble, with its relentless focus on England and, occasionally, Wales, to the exclusion of Scotland and Northern Ireland. It offers an accessible at a glance overview of criminal justice and social welfare developments across the United Kingdom.
UKJPR is divided into two main sections. The first section offers an overview of key developments in policing, the court system, prison and probation and welfare reform during the year in question. UKJPR 1, for instance, covers the early stages of the rehabilitation revolution and the work programme, along with the emerging debate around police accountability and the significant changes to the courts system.
The second section brings together key data in areas including government spending, staffing, criminal justice caseloads and changes in income and poverty. One striking figure that emerges is the amount of business G4S Care and Justice Services received from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) in the coalition government's first year. Of the £167m spent by the UKBA on public order services, £93m – some 56 per cent – went to G4S.
Overall, UKJPR reveals that in its first year the coalition spent £320m on contracted out prison and detention centres; £99m on contracted out electronic monitoring; £159m on contracted out court and prison escorts and £167m on contracted out asylum detention and return services.
Among other notable facts, UKJPR finds that over two million people in the UK were convicted of an offence by the courts or subject to an out-of-court disposal. Nearly 30 per cent of criminal justice sanctions in the UK are now out of court disposals. It also estimates that the numbers in prison in the UK are on course to reach 100,000 by 2014.
There are also some important variations across the four regions of the United Kingdom. The numbers of prison staff in Northern Ireland have remained stable since 2010, while declining in England, Wales and Scotland. The number of probation staff have been growing in Scotland and Northern Ireland since 2007, while declining in England and Wales.
Most striking, perhaps, while police officer numbers have been declining in Northern Ireland since at least 2005, and in England and Wales since 2009, in Scotland they have been stable since 2009.
Alongside the annual publication a website – www.ukjusticepolicyreview.org.uk – provides a repository of additional material, data and research. The original data sources for all the tables and graphs in each issue of UKJPR are downloadable from the website. By following the links in the electronic version of UKJPR, or by browsing the site, the reader can analyse the original data, in addition to viewing it in the form presented in UKJPR.
The website also contains a wealth of governmental and other policy documents referred to in the report. In our experience government strategies, White Papers and other key governmental and non-governmental resources often disappear from the official websites at an alarming speed. The UKJPR website will provide a permanent repository for these materials.
UKJPR is the product of the centre's commitment to undertake independent scrutiny of criminal justice and social justice developments to aid critical reflection and evidence-based policy making. Over time we anticipate it becoming a key reference point for policy makers, journalists, funders, advocates, students.
For more information about the project and to download a copy of UKJPR 1 visit www.ukjusticepolicyreview.org.uk