A Confidential Crime Policy
Back in 2000 one of the Great Good and Extremely Well Fed was appointed as a "Blue Skies Advisor" to Tony Blair.
The individual was John Birt, previously Director General of the BBC and general stalwart of the New Labour establishment.
His mandate was to pursue "A New Vision for the criminal justice system"
To be fair to Dear John, he was enthusiastic in his task.
Some would say over-enthusiastic.Especially those who did not want the boat rocked, let alone capsized.
The confidential document he produced, or rather, some of the statistics he presented in it, caused a minor governmental earthquake.
The report was suppressed. Ministers were not available for comment. Whenever it or its contents were mentioned, the topic was quickly changed.
After being stonewalled by a red faced government, the press eventually gave up. The report was very quickly buried. Dear John was pensioned off to other things. Various news/media bodies were bought off/debts called in, to ensure the outline of the report only got a very brief public airing and was never mentioned again.
This was one of those gorgeously ugly moments we sometimes have in our land. Where the hidden forces of the state leap in on a damage limitation excercise.
Panic stricken they seek to suppress a document, or the reportage of a demonstration or some foreign debacle. All of which could have catastrophically embarrassing results if not killed off.
Incidentally, this report (funnily enough) is still quite hard to come by. So I've put a rather crap pdf copy of it Here.
The document is still stamped "Confidential - Policy". But have a read anyway.
You know you want to.
So what was so wildly dangerous about Dear Johns report? And why am I blogging about it now? Eleven years later.
The reason I am writing about it, is that unfortunately, I don't think much has changed.
The report also contained some shocking statistics. But not the normal run of the mill, manipulated and sanitised statistics boringly churned out each year, but the real ugly data.
These are statistics that are normally airbrushed out so the public don't get alarmed at the incompetence of their government and legal system.
For example: (this relates to the late 1990's)
Per year there were 14 million serious offences.
Half of these 14 million offences were committed by a hard core of 100,000 serious persistent offenders.
Each of these hard core offenders was committing on average 90 serious offences per year.
At any one time 15000 of these offenders were in jail and the other 85000 are out on the streets, doing their "business".
82% of this group on release from jail were re-convicted.
The item that almost the whole of the establishment wanted to avoid was that this flew directly in the face of their idolised view of criminality as a sort of base band signal produced as a result of poverty and deprivation. To them it was nothing to do with evil or greed.
Today we have Clarke, Cameron, Clegg and Milliband vying for positive voter feedback on being "tough on crime" or "compassionate" or whatever.
But really they need to read John Birts report. It may out of date, but it is still highly relevant.
It showed that in the 1990's half of all serious crimes were one off's. I would suggest that these people need re-habilitation.
It also showed that the other half were committed by dedicated and perpetual criminals. Each of whom was responsible for 90 serious crimes per year.
To a mere pleb like myself this sounds very much like:
We should be compassionate to crimmo's who have only committed one crime. Give them a second chance. Lots of supervision, support and training.
This in turn makes some space in the prison for:
The bastards who perpetually wreck society and peoples lives. Lock them up and throw away the key.
Just on this reckoning, if we released (or let out early - with supervision) 15000 low rate/first time offenders (out of approximately 65000 low rate/first time offenders) and locked up another 15000 hardened crimmos - or significantly increased their sentences, then that would reduce crime by:
90 x 15000 = 1.35 million serious offences per year
Or (in 1990's figures) it would reduce the serious crime rate by approximately 10%.
Thats with NO increase in the prison population.
Well, it is just an idea. It would entail a little more leniency for those who have taken a bad turn. It would also involve a lot less tea and sympathy for the hard core. Neither of which is regarded as a vote winning idea by our Great and Good.
What are the real chances of any government doing anything soon about serious crime, compassion and real justice?
Uh, Don't hold your breath.