Policing and Criminal Justice

On Saturday the independent think tank which I chair, The Project for Modern Democracy, published a report on “ten crime and justice priorities for the new government”.

Crime is rising, creating tens of thousands of new victims. Criminals are exploiting new opportunities. A creaking justice system is struggling to keep up with the pressures.

Boris Johnson fully recognises the problem. He has pledged to recruit 20,000 more police officers, increase the number of prison places and toughen up sentencing.

I first made the proposal for honesty in sentencing over a decade ago when I was Shadow Justice Secretary. Automatic early release of prisoners undermines public confidence.

It should be replaced by earned release, so that the behaviour and risk posed by a prisoner determines whether or not they can be let out before the end of their full term.

We should intervene earlier and more effectively to prevent repeat offending. New tracking technology could enable demanding semi-custodial sentences as an alternative to ineffective short prison terms, depriving offenders of liberty while enabling them to remain in work.

Alcohol-fuelled incidents account for half of all violent crime. A 24/7 sobriety scheme, using technology to monitor offenders, should be made available to all courts.

The criminal justice system makes insufficient use of technology. New facial recognition systems could transform the fight against gangs and organised crime. GPS tagging should be expanded nationwide to improve community supervision.

The structure of policing needs to reflect how crime is changing. 43 separate local forces can’t deal with internet criminals. A powerful new national cyber constabulary should be set up, funded by an Online Safety levy on large internet companies.

Neighbourhood policing needs to be guaranteed though a ringfenced fund, so that the police are put back on the streets, able to focus on preventing crimes, not just reacting to them.

It was good to see Sussex’ hard-working Police & Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne, meeting the Prime Minister to discuss his plans over recent days.

These elected officials should become Police and Justice Commissioners, taking over probation services and controlling budgets for short-term custody. At last justice would be joined up, with local agencies working together to prevent crime and reduce re-offending.

More resources are welcome, but for the streets to be safer we also need reform to make the criminal justice system faster and smarter.