Civitas ( Institute for the Study of Civil Society ) 2007

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Crime & Civil Society, Can we become a more law-abiding people?

Edition: 1st

Authors: David G Green, Emma Grove & Nadia A Martin

ISBN: 1-903386-36-5

Publishers: Civitas

Price £14.50

Publication Date: 2005

Publisher’s Title Information

No political slogan has gained more resonance than 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'. Tony Blair used it to reassure voters that a Labour government would take concerns about crime seriously. In spite of this, modern Britain is one of the most crime-infested countries in the developed world.
Part of the problem is the refusal to admit the seriousness of the situation. Officials talk of an 'exaggerated fear of crime'. Crime is said to be coming down, according to the British Crime Survey. But the BCS only began in 1981, when crime was at historically high levels. Furthermore, the BCS records only some crimes - less than half - with very significant omissions.

This report shows that the government is failing to get even the most basic things right. Prison should get offenders off drugs and teach them a vocational skill. Most prisoners have a drugs problem and find that they can feed their habit while inside. A lot of money is spent on education, but thousands of offenders leave prison without a workplace skill. Money is being wasted on rehabilitation schemes that have failed to reduce offending. There is an unwillingness to recognise either the deterrent effect of prison or its simple incapacitation effect - criminals don't commit crimes while they are locked up.
We need a new crime-reduction strategy that will include social investment in institutions that encourage law-abiding behaviour, especially the family; that will reduce the net benefits of crime to the criminal; and will use the best methods to help prisoners to turn their lives around.
This book is a companion to Cultures and Crimes by Norman Dennis and George Erdos, which exposed the failings of Britain's police. Crime and Civil Society reveals the dishonesty, wishful thinking and politicking that vitiates the whole criminal justice system.

“Crime and Civil Society” by David G. Green, Emma Grove and Nadia A. Martin is divided into two parts. The first deals with the evidence on how to reduce reoffending while the second part is headed “Conclusion and implications for public policy”.

There are inevitably many comparisons with America where efforts to evaluate programmes have been far more vigorous than in the UK. One reason for such comparisons is said to be a shared cultural heritage between the two nations; interestingly there are few references to the European Union. While not devaluing the comparisons between the US and the UK, it might perhaps have been more satisfactory to have concentrated more on UK/European similarities regardless of dissimilar legal systems and different cultural heritages. The EU is composed of a number of different nations with a central administration often attempting the impossible: to find a satisfactory solution to a problem acceptable to all. In the circumstances, despite different legal systems, alternative methods of policing and justice in general, an overall enquiry might have produced other alternatives to the US methods which not everyone recognises as being the greatest in the world.

The book consists of over three hundred pages including ten pages of graphs, twenty-one of bibliographies and thirty-one pages of notes. It cannot be denied that the authors have not delved deeply into every aspect of the subject and eventually came to the conclusion that virtually every aspect of the subject requires change. A new crime-reduction strategy is needed that will encourage law-abiding behaviour, especially in the family.

So far as the layman is concerned, particularly if part of a family, home life and schooling are of major importance in preventing a child from entering into a life of crime. While it is often argued that the nuclear family is the ideal for good citizenship, it has also been claimed that much will obviously depend on discipline and respect, both of which are often lacking in today's society. If this simple premise is accepted, then it is one that must apply to any country. If at a later date a teenager or adult should offend, the police come into play and today there is much criticism of lack of street patrols, dealing unnecessarily with matters which, in “the olden days” would have been dealt with by parents and schoolteachers. But today social services often step in and evidence shows that their decisions are not always reliable. Should the matter progress there are endless organisations willing and able to assist. One cannot help think whether there are too many interested parties, parents should accept responsibility for their children's behaviour.

My one concern about this book is that it lacks an index. No non-fiction work should be published without containing a means of checking on matters of importance to the reader, to avoid having to either rely on a brilliant memory or wade through three hundred pages. But despite that comment, there is no doubt that this book will be of great value to anyone undertaking research in the subject.


Institutional Injustice The Family Courts at work

Edition: 1st

Author: Martin Mears

ISBN: 978-I-903386-48-9

Publishers: Civitas

Price £9.50

Publication Date: 2006

Publisher’s title Information

Are judges enforcing the law or making it? Has the judiciary usurped the role of parliament? The Human Rights Act has given rise to these suspicions, and nowhere has there been greater concern than in the area of family law, where the quality of judicial decision-making has acquired a dismal reputation.

Courts have generally refused to take conduct into account, except in the most extreme cases, which means that a party who has repudiated all the obligations of a marriage can claim the financial benefits accruing from it. Courts have 'developed' the law by promoting concepts of 'equality' and 'non-discrimination' which do not appear in the legislation. The injustice dispensed over the years is so routine, and the mindset responsible for it so entrenched, that it can fairly be described as institutional injustice.

Martin Mears argues that a change in the culture of family law must take place before these defects can be remedied, and this will be impossible while the same few judges are applying the same old rules reflecting the same prejudices. He argues in favour of binding pre­nuptial agreements, the consideration of conduct in awarding assets, and the right of a child to maintain contact with both parents.