The Criminal Justice System is an area of the English Legal System that strikes a balance between punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent. This balance has been the subject of much debate in the last 20 years because there has been a large number of miscarriages of justice, where innocent citizens/ people are sent to prison. This then suggested that the system had tipped this balance too far and was greatly engaged in proving guilt.
Examples of high profile cases that show some of these miscarriages of justice are , The Birmingham Six and The Guilford Four. The Criminal Justice System also helps to regulate and control anti – social behaviour. The police play an important role as they have responsibility for investigating crimes, gathering evidence and deciding whether to prosecute or not. These powers over suspects also enables them to help convict the guilty or, as the miscarriages of justice has shown, abuse to convict the innocent.
As a result of these miscarriages of justice some changes were introduced to prevent them happening again. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) was introduced to protect suspects.
With regards to Crime and the society, there is no doubt that crime and fear of crime are consistently high on the list of public concerns, and statistics also suggest that crime has risen over the last 100 years. Even criminologist Robert Reiner suggests that “we have got used to thinking of crime, like the weather and pop music, as something that is always getting worse”. This could be due to the fact that we see and hear more media reports of crime, mainly through newspaper headlines, articles, TV, books on ‘true crime’, ‘mind of the criminal’ and most especially tabloid headlines.
These sources of media all contribute to crime and the fear of crime that usually relates to personal safety. Research have shown that this fear is especially high in the elderly, female and ethnic minority groups. So the higher the crime rate the higher the fear of crime. It is also important to question the authenticity of crimes reported by the media – has enough evidence been carried out before the crimes were published?.
Official statistics on crime are published annually in the UK, and provide two main kind of information: the number of crimes committed, as a whole and by type of crime; and certain characteristics such as sex and age, of convicted offender.
The British Crime Survey (BCS) is a yearly survey that collects data on crimes in England and Wales. This data is collected through randomly sent out questionnaires. There are also the Homes Office Figures which record all crimes reported to police. BCS figures include non reported crimes, while the Home Office includes only crimes reported. A number of studies have shown that majority of crimes which take place are not reported to the police.
According to the BCS, the main reasons for not reporting are that the police would not be able to do anything about it. People also tend to report crimes where there is an obvious advantage in them doing so. For example 98% of car thefts are reported presumably because that is necessary in order to make an insurance claim. Other factors which the survey has highlighted are that some crimes are regarded as personal matters, to be sorted out between the individuals; victims may want to protect the offender, particularly in crimes such as child abuse or domestic violence; and the victims are too embarrassed especially when the offence is of a sexual nature.
Even where a crime has been reported to ( or discovered by ) the police, it will not necessarily end up being recorded by them because they have a wide discretion regarding the recording of crime. They may see the crime as too trivial to waste their time on (theft of a small amount of money) and in some cases whether an individual’s behaviour is regarded as a crime depends on how they label an offender. For example, a working-class teenager may conform to the public image of a young criminal even if a middle-class teenager committed more, and more serious, dangerous acts.
They could easily present their activities as harmless pranks whilst questioned. The police may decide not to record an offence because it has already been resolved, or because the victim does not wish to proceed with the complaint. And lastly they may regard the person complaining as too unreliable to take his or her account of the incident seriously. The overall effect of partial reporting and recording of crimes is that the official statistics will only reflect a portion of overall crimes committed. These offences not in the official statistics are referred to as the ‘dark figure’ of unrecorded crime.
In addition to recording crimes, there are 42 different police forces which obviously means different attitudes to types of crime and different means of recording reported crimes. And very often ‘trivial’ offences would be recorded as ‘no crime’. This could then lead to concentrating resources on some crimes at the expense of others, this may then make it appear that certain crimes are rising by comparison with other, when in fact they may simply be more likely to be detected and recorded. Similarly, clear-up rates does vary between forces, so clear-up rates must be approached with caution as each force varies its recording techniques. The BCS concluded in 2002 that only 2% of crimes committed result in a conviction and ‘yet the Government claims that about 20% of recorded crimes are brought to justice.’
In conclusion, crime statistics can be seen as unreliable not only as a picture of current rates, but also for the purposes of comparison – which is a problem given the huge media attention paid to such comparisons, and its influence on policy.
The statistics cannot be trusted anymore as it no longer indicates what is actually going on in the society. So in order to get detailed and accurate crime figures;
* Stereotypical view of criminals should be erased. Most officers suggest that most crime is committed by young, working-class, black males and sometimes are more heavily represented than might be expected from the proportion of the population that they make up.
* Reality of crime statistics should be presented not the picture of crime as a whole. In some geographical groups or areas, police are too busy trying to picture the whole frame of crime and in doing so forget the reality of crimes statistics for these minor groups or areas.
* There should be more police on the streets so that as people get more familiar with them, they’ll have more confidence to report more.
* Repeat victimisation should be reflected properly as they help to make decisions on policy and allocation of resources. So six burglaries in the same estate should not be recorded as one.
* All police force should be made to report crime in similar ways in order to make figures comparable. Which includes recording anything reported as a crime as a crime. And also no crime should be seen as too ‘trivial’, as only a few of summary offences are reported.