Our latest e-Bulletin, sent out on 24 September, 2021.
Yesterday I did a presentation to staff at the National Audit Office (NAO) on the complex network of criminal justice institutions and agencies that extend across the United Kingdom. The presentation drew on work that I and my colleague, Roger Grimshaw, have been undertaking, to provide an up-to-date overview of the UK justice systems. The report of this work is due for publication a bit later this year.
One, mundane but important, conclusion I shared yesterday was that there is no single way of doing justice in the UK.
In England and Wales, for instance, 43 local police forces are each accountable to a directly-elected politician. Scotland and Northern Ireland have single ‘national’ forces, each overseen by a committee appointed by politicians.
The prosecution services operate differently across the different UK jurisdictions. The criminal court systems across the three UK jurisdictions have very different historical origins. Per capita prison populations in Northern Ireland are much lower than they are in Scotland and England and Wales.
By extension, there is also no 'gold' standard approach, in relation to which all others are inferior. Police accountability models based on an elected politician are not, inherently, superior to ones based on an appointed committee, or vice versa.
How those arrangements have emerged is down to a range of political, historical, social and cultural factors. What these factors are is arguably of more significance than the resulting institutions and structures.
We also discussed the significant role of civil society organisations, citizen mobilisation, and citizen protest in holding criminal justice bodies to account.
I was reminded of this during the visit I and colleagues made to the "War Inna Babylon" exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, which closes this weekend.
Curated by the racial advocacy and community organisation Tottenham Rights, the exhibition charts more than fifty years of grassroots activism for racial justice among Black frontline communities across the UK.
If you have a chance to get to it before it closes this coming Sunday, it's well-worth a visit.
We're gearing up to host our first 'Lunch with...' webinar next Wednesday, 12.30 to 13.30. The first episode will be a conversation between Richard Garside and Frances Crook OBE, outgoing Chief Executive of the Howard League. It's an opportune moment to catch Frances as she departs from the Howard League, to explore her history as one of the UK's foremost penal reformers in recent times.
We're excited to announce that on 6 October, we'll be joined by Katrina Ffrench from Unjust and Gemma Buckland from Do it Justice Ltd, both leading figures in the world of criminal justice for our first episode of 'Last month in criminal justice'. In the first webinar we'll be chatting about:
- The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
- Recent changes at the Ministry of Justice
- Party conference speeches
- Latest developments in policing
Are there any subjects you'd like us to cover? Any guests you'd like to see in future episodes? Read more and get in touch.
We're hosting an in-person event in collaboration with A Woman's Place UK on 27 October, 19.30 at a location to be announced.
A Woman's Place is NOT in Prison will explore pressing issues affecting women in prison, against the backdrop of the government's planned expansion of the women's estate. Chaired by Allison Bailey, the current line-up of speakers includes:
- Charlie Weinberg (Chair of Trustees, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies)
- Frances Crook OBE (Howard League for Penal Reform)
- Cátia Freitas (WPUK)
- Professor Jo Phoenix (The Open University)
More speakers will be announced shortly. In the meantime, buy your tickets here.
An eye on criminal justice
The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) recently published a briefing on how, amongst other state agencies, the Home Office and National Crime Agency increasingly use targeted advertising and behavioural influencing techniques as part of their crime prevention strategies. According to the report, reliance on behavioural influencing and targeted campaigns has already resulted in backlash, as was the case with Super Sisters and the chicken-shop campaign - both considered discriminatory and racially-motivated targeting by the Home Office. The SCCJR label this increased use of behavioural nudging, influencing and targeting 'Surveillance Influence Infrastructure'.
It is something we are currently considering with our work on electronic monitoring (EM) where new technologies are being developed which hold the potential to subvert certain principles upon which justice rests. How do we weigh up the legitimacy in the use 'Surveillance Influence Infrastructure'? Read more about our work on this here.
There is a lot happening at the moment on women in the criminal justice system, and in particular women in prison. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report into the dreadful, avoidable death of a baby at HMP Bronzefield and its account of how a young woman was left to give birth alone has prompted widespread calls to not only eliminate the imprisonment of pregnant women, but has called into question the practice of sending any women to prison. Rona Epstein and Geraldine Brown wrote an article for us about the needless and cruel imprisonment of pregnant women last year which you can read here.
At the same time, HM Inspectorate of the Constabulary and Fire and Rescue (HMICFR) published its final findings into the effectiveness in addressing violence against women and girls, and the Byline Times reported that half of all Met police officers found guilty of sexual misconduct were retained in their posts.
Criminal justice institutions should be held to account for holding pregnant women needlessly in prison, for any death in custody, for refusal to hold police accountable for sexual misconduct. If you would like to find out more and get involved in tackling the injustice of the criminal justice system towards women, come to our event with A Woman's Place UK.
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