Justice denied

In Johnson’s very soft and undemanding breakfast interview yesterday he said he wanted ‘county lines gangs totally wound up‘.

I , (together with the Evening Standard!) have already suggested an educational route that would help.

But, if he’s actually serious, in order to achieve that ‘winding up’ he will have to spend some money on the justice system. Yes, he’s voluntered over the next four years to reinstate 20,000 more police to bring numbers up to about 1000 fewer than when the Conservatives last took over from Labour. Please don’t mention that the population has increased since then.

Lord Ian Blair, former Commisioner of the Metropolitan Police, who, of course Johnson sacked when London Mayor, speaking in November last year said that he calculated that the Met’s current budget “is 39% less than mine was in real terms when I left office”. The service to the public has had to be reduced in scale “perhaps none more deeply than neighbourhood policing, the most visible component in public reassurance”. When he mentioned that “I am alarmed by the way in which the pattern of decline in policing provision, which I know about, is not only echoed but sometimes amplified across the courts, prisons, prosecution services and probation,” he was grossly understating the problem.

Not only do Police “now take an average of 331 days from the date of the offence to charge someone with a crime that will see them tried at a crown court, up from 205 days in 2010.” almost half of Crown Courts are empty each day – the judges are there but ‘costsavings’ mean that courts cannot be opened. According to one crown court judge, “The judges, the buildings, the staff are all there but there will be no solution to this problem until Government fund the system properly. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Cases take so long to actually come to trial that it is not unknown for defendants on remand to be released because the custody time limit has been reached.

The disaster that is the overcrowded prison system is well-known and is a result of insufficient investment in property and staff. We have the highest rate of incarceration in Western Europe. Compounded of course by the additional problem of knee-jerk politicians imprisoning for longer in order to ‘deter’ – albeit without a shred of evidence. Thus in 2018, the maximum sentence for assaulting an emergency worker was doubled. In 2018-19 there was a record level of assaults on emergency workers. In 2020 the Home secretary, Priti Patel has concluded that the solution is to double the maximum sentence – again.

And even factory farmers know that if your pigs or chickens get too crowded together damaging behaviours result. But apparently our government doesn’t realise that they, we and prisoners are all animals.

Yet there is ample current evidence – even from the Telegraph – that prisons with proper investment can start to serve some higher purpose than simply a very rough and always ready crime academy.

The probation service is according to its inspectorate, still currently partially privatised, which, as most contended, just did not work, works in sometimes vermin infested offices and is short of 615 probation officers with 60% of current officers having workloads exceeding capacity.

If we want a society that is less crime ridden we have to resume the course that the last Labour government was on – to invest in its youth, its people generally and its justice system.

There really is no alternative to actually putting in the resources – also known as spending money!