Regulatory policy

Work should focus on politics rather than ‘tough on crime’ messaging, charity says | British criminal justice

Labor is engaging in ‘cheap politics’ by repeatedly accusing the Tories of being soft on crime, the head of a major prison reform charity has claimed.

Andrea Coomber QC, chief executive of the Howard League, said the opposition was trying to outflank Boris Johnson’s government on law and order instead of developing evidence-based policies to address a crisis within the system of criminal justice.

“We don’t yet know what the opposition’s policies are on prisons or criminal justice, but the background music is entirely ‘tough on crime’, not caring about criminals or addressing criminals. victims of crimes. It doesn’t necessarily provide the opposition the government needs,” she said in an interview with The Guardian.

“I think the new Shadow Lord Chancellor, Steve Reed, has certainly been very outspoken in his commitment to be tough on crime, but we don’t know what that means. At the moment, these are just tweets and comments to the media. It is not a policy.

“You don’t know what the policy might be. The politics could be incredibly progressive, but it’s hard to imagine how that would be consistent with that kind of messaging,” she said.

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Labor hit back at Coomber’s criticism, pointing out that the party had pledged to introduce “victim reimbursement boards” in a bid to restore public confidence in community penalties for anti-social behaviour.

Under Keir Starmer, Labor has sought to exploit the government’s perceived weaknesses in public order, particularly in light of the Prime Minister’s fine for breaching Covid regulations.

In February, Starmer accused conservatives of being soft on crime. In the same month, Reed suggested in an interview with the Mirror that the Labor Party had cared more about criminals than victims under Starmer’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, and said he would consider “naming and humiliating” the people who buy recreational drugs.

During campaigns for this month’s local elections, crime was one of two main lines of attack employed by the party, with Starmer saying confidence in the criminal justice system had been “devastatingly undermined” under Johnson by cuts to policing and a decline in crime detection. rates.

Coomber, a human rights lawyer, called on both sides to stop falling back on building more prisons and imposing tougher sentences, and instead look at government research showing that the sentences communities and keeping people out of prison provide better outcomes for society.

“Both major parties are trying to outflank each other on law and order. It’s a pretty cheap policy,” she said.

“We already have the second largest prison population outside of Scotland in Europe. And while Scotland ponders prison as an answer, we [England and Wales] announced that another 20,000 people were going to prison. We crowd people there. The direction of travel is of great concern. It was already a system on the verge of collapse, and that was before Covid.

The Department of Justice’s own prison population projections estimate that there will be 98,500 people in prison by March 2026. The prison population in England and Wales was 79,580 in November last year . The planned increase in personnel is largely the result of the planned recruitment of 23,400 additional police officers, it says.

A Labor spokesperson said: “As a former DPP [director of public prosecutions], for Keir Starmer, tackling crime and putting victims first is a personal mission. With his leadership, the Labor Party has placed security at the heart of its contract with the British people.

“That is why, in government, we would create new police centers and neighborhood crime prevention teams across the country to fight crime and establish new community and victim reimbursement councils to restore justice. confidence in community sentences and reduce recidivism at the source.

“This soft-on-crime Conservative government has an abysmal 12-year record that fails criminals and fails victims.”