The essence of Gauke’s proposal is that justice isn’t working at the moment, prisoners are being punished but not rehabilitated, and indeed with the figures on display it is hard to disagree. However, though his proposed reforms may have a positive impact on crime in the future, in the short term they could result in an increase in crime as criminals aren’t being given sentences and currently don’t have access to the support networks necessary to prevent future crime.
Over the last 5 years there has been over 250,000 six month, or less, sentences handed out in the UK. Additionally, a further 300,000 sentences of a year and under. Shockingly nearly two-thirds of these offenders committed another crime within a year of being released. These figures represent a system which is failing in its ability to properly rehabilitate its inmates. This results in criminals returning to society with few prospects and therefore a high chance of committing a crime. David Gauke has proposed that six-month sentences should be banned as they serve no purpose in terms of rehabilitation, commenting “Why would we spend taxpayers’ money doing what we know doesn’t work, and indeed, makes us less safe?”
David Gauke has rightly pointed out that it is the root of these crimes which must be addressed. For those committing crimes who suffer from mental health issues or a drug or alcohol addiction, prison is not the answer. Instead, he has put forward that the health and justice systems should work closely to rehabilitate people with addictions and to help those suffering with mental health issues. Indeed, studies have shown that 60% of recent offenders who engaged with a community-based alcohol or mental health programme did not go on to reoffend in the two years following treatment.
These changes may be an effort to alleviate some of the pressure on prisons. With a steady increase over the last few years of the volume of prisoners and the length of their sentences, prisons have been put under increasing strain. Indeed prison violence, self-harm and drug use are at record levels and surely these issues need addressing. However, though the suggested reforms will relieve some of the pressures on prisons they will shift the pressure onto a police force which has been dealing with cuts and lost 20,000 officers since 2010.
By addressing the root of crimes such as theft, robbery and burglary that so often stem from addiction; we may well expect to see a reduction in these crimes in the long-term. Furthermore, these proposed changes could have a great impact on the rehabilitation of inmates in prison, as well as prospective criminals and those awaiting sentencing. This could ensure that some of the most vulnerable in society are kept away from a life of crime, which is surely beneficial for the police, the prison services and the tax payer.
Though forward-thinking in the long-term, these proposals could have some drastic consequences in the short-term as societal changes don’t happen overnight, and neither does rehabilitation. These proposals may lead to more criminals being at large without the proper support from the police or rehabilitation programmes immediately in place. With an already strained police force, it may be difficult to ensure that these criminals do not reoffend in the short term whilst awaiting rehabilitative treatment and support.
These proposals may work in the long-term; however, the more immediate effects of scrapping six-month sentences may strain the Police even further and lead to a miscarriage of justice in some cases. Strains on the Police, driven by cuts and now potentially having to monitor criminals who have not been incarcerated, have facilitated the lack of ability to effectively handle every case. Therefore the right to criminal justice is being infringed upon and, to an extent, neglected.
Foresight provides expert witnesses for solicitors in an incredibly wide-ranging array of cases. Our experts are adeptly placed to aid in criminal defence cases and ensure that those committing serious crimes receive the sentences due. Furthermore, our investigative services can help make up for the Police’s diminishing ability to thoroughly review every case.
Our services help solicitors and victims alike receive the justice they seek and deserve. For more information on our services and how we can aid you case, get in touch today.