Get Involved!

If you are interested in submitting a piece of work to be published on this blog, please email
Views are strictly those of the individual author.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mental Health in Prison: Discussions Needed

Mental health still remains one of the most taboo subjects within modern society today; sufferers are often left feeling alone and marginalised. However, recent campaigns have come to public attention in order to tackle the very real issue. The same cannot be said for mental health within the prison system, very little is reported in terms of statistics and authorities tend to attempt to brush the issue under the carpet.
There is however a wealth of research regarding mental health and its dominance in the prison system. As a result, there is actually a shocking number of individuals who suffer with mental health issues. As many as 70% of the UK prison population has two or more mental health disorders (Social Exclusion Unit, 2004). The research also found that male prisoners were 14 times more likely to have two or more disorders, and women were a staggering 35 times more likely than the general population.
An article published in September by the Independent detailed the terrifying rise in prison suicides in the last year, with a percentage rise of 64%. As more individuals with mental health issues make their way into the prison system, both staff and facilities struggle to cope and prisoners suffer as a consequence.

There are several measures required in order to tackle the taboo subject, as well as practical legislation needed. At a grass roots level it is so necessary that we as a society accept the fact that people are affected by mental health. I would hope that most people are aware that 1 in every 4 people will be affected by a mental disorder in their life. This statistic alone is enough to see why so many prisoners mental health suffers. A high percentage of the prison population comes from areas of poverty, low employment, poor education and difficulties or violence at home, all these issues coupled together is a recipe for mental instability. Therefore encouraging people to recognise and acknowledge that something must be done in order to tackle this overwhelming issue is really important. Furthermore, the Prison Service introduced suicide and self-harm procedures almost a decade ago, perhaps it is time for a review of the measures considering the alarming rise in mental health related incidents, including better implementation of these procedures by all staff, as well as those trained specifically for the purpose of harm prevention.

On the other hand we should emphasise the fact that staff are able to ‘tackle the issue’ and save prisoners from harming themselves further everyday, and that perhaps despite the real negatives of an increase in those harming themselves due to mental health issues, there are many who are able to stabilise or overcome their difficulties and this is because of prison staff. It is so very important that we remember to praise those who are helping to rehabilitate prisoners every day and that this rise in mental health issues is because a lack of societal faith in our prison system can sometimes creep into the system itself.   

A. Ticehurst, B.A. (Hons) Criminology 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Reducing Child Abuse: Tackling Challenges in High Violence Societies -Bernadette Madrid

With a focus on adolescence, Bernadette Madrid, from the Univeristy of the Philippines and Director of the Child Protection Unit, highlighted the fact that this stage in life is a critical period in the life course. She made a very interesting point that, "no matter when we intervene in childhood; primary, secondary, or tertiary, ultimately it is all primary intervention for adulthood and for the next cycle of violence (family)". I thought this was a really interesting point to make because it requires a broader thought process that forces us to really consider the longer term objectives. It also fits nicely into the concept of reducing violence 50% in 30 years because it highlights that if we start to focus on violence reduction and intervention in adolescence, then we are essentially instilling primary prevention for those who will potentially parent the children of the next generation. If we do not think about the cycle of violence, then we will constantly play catch up.

Another really interesting point was made about the development of a research capacity in developing countries. Developing countries are working with very limited resources and politicians that are attracted to structural reform (improving schools, unemployment etc). However, because of the electoral cycles, issues such as dealing with the 'disconnected youth' in developing countries (child trafficking, sexual exploitation, etc) are not prioritised. 

Bernadette made a few recommendations on what we need to do to improve the means and resources for research in developing countries. 

1)We need to have universal access to secondary school education : This includes having young people complete high school which is of good quality and improve links to employment. Graduating highschool was found to have links with decreasing other negative life outcomes (marrying when young, re-victimisation of abuse) 

2) Universal Access to Mental Health:  Mental health problems affect 10-20% of children and adolescents worldwide, but in many low medium income countries, no psychosocial resources exist (Philippines as an example). There needs to be a promotion of interventions and socio-emotional development which includes developmental problems such as ADHD.

3) Reorganisation of services for better intervention and collaboration: We need to collaborate, engage citizens, independent agencies and experts. 

4) Collaborate to increase the capacity in prevention and implementation research: This includes making cultural adaptations to traditional risk factors and research, but also to consider that there are many steps that need to be made before programmes can be implemented. For example, Bernadette attended some training on DNA data bases in America, and when she went back to the Philippeans she was told that in order to consider the database, there was first a need to develop the infrastructure such as where to store the DNA, the tools to collect the DNA, etc etc. All things that did not exist and make building the research capacity important. 

In her final thoughts, Bernadette recommended the use of technology and music to begin to shape the views of violence prevention. These are things that already exist and can be further developed if we can make the cultural adaptations. Technology can be used in a rule of capacity training, and music can be used as a method of communication within communities as it's effective and is something that goes straight to an individual's emotion. 

A. Neaverson 

Posts are on-the-go and are my views. 

Linking Developmental Science and Prevention Research to Intervene MoreEffectively in Child Development - Theresa Betancourt

Theresa Betancourt is from Harvard University and is an Associate Professor of Child Health and Human Rights as well as the Director of the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity. For many years Theresa has been working in Rwanda and Sierra Leone as a means to study war-affected you and family strengthening intervention. In the 5 minutes I have to write this post, I will be able to make the slightest dent in the complexities that are involved in these two projects so please visit to read her abstract and find out a bit more about her.

Theresa begins by highlighting the fact that 1/3 of children under the age of 5 are failing to fulfil their developmental potential which is problematic because as we know, childhood adversity often leads to adult chronic health problems. To create effective interventions, Theresa argues that we need to consider both risk and protective factors but from a collaborative approach. There are programmes that already work with families, but we need to come together to include what we know about protective factors across the sector. 

Theresa mentions 'silo-busting' which the need to develop a holistic approach to child health. Part of this approach includes a rights based model called SAFE which is about Safety, Access to physiological care, Family, and Education. We need to use SAFE to create a basic safety net for children because "a weakness or a threat in one domain can have cascading effects on other domains". 

Later in her presentation, Theresa mentions the importants of stress receptors in young people. She presented three levels of stress; 1) Positive (school plays, giving a presentation). This is positive because eventually with enough repetition, these acts don't produce as much stress. 2) Tolerable (serious and temporary but buffered but supportive relationships).  3) Toxic (prolonged activation of the stress response system and absence of the buffering factors found in stage 2). 

The argument is that we need to focus on stress and this should be implemented in parenting interventions as well. We need to look at building self-regulation and stress management. We need to keep the pressure on governments to keep funding and developing policy, research evaluation and multi-sectorial collaboration. 

A. Neaverson 

Posts are on-the-go and my views. 

Where do we want to get and how? Outlining the Challenges - AlexanderButchart

Dr. Alexander Butchart is the Prevention of Violence Coordinator in the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability at the World Health Organisation. His discussion surrounded the topic of my Global Violence Prevention Field and outlined some of the objectives of what we need to do to create this. One topic which was discussed during the question period had to do with the definitions of violence that we should prioritise in our research. Alexander recommended that we look at interpersonal violence as this affects all countries and leads to risk factors for lifelong risks to health and social problems.

His recommendation for creating a Violence Prevention Field is that we involve international actors, intellectual, institutional and financial links all with a shared focus on evidence-based control. To do this, we need to think realistically about whether or not we are able to create global objectives or global baseline targets. I agree that it's unrealistic to frame this approach around the need to meet targets and set objectives that everyone needs to work towards. I also agree with Alexander that what we need in order to move forward is collaboration with the basics which includes creating surveys that not only include economic, public health and family factors. We need surveys that also work to collect information on violence, aggression and protective factors. 

It was interesting to have the discussion of risk factors, or what the higher income countries have defined as risk factors. When we are researching the low medium income countries, we really should be asking ourselves whether or not the same risk factors apply. 

What must be done? We need to advocate for a global political prioritisation of violence prevention, integrate knowledge and skills and promote peace and non-violence in education programmes. 

Visit for more information. 

A. Neaverson

Opening and Objectives - Global Violence Reduction Conference 2014

Today's conference begins with setting the Conference objectives and reminding everyone of the reasons why we have some together these two days. As discussed in previous posts, we are looking to bring together different approaches from Public Health to Criminology. Manuel Eisner reminds us that we are striving to work together as a means to reduce violence globally by 50%. He makes the point that this is the opportunity to move Violence Prevention up on the list of priorities, globally. We need to use this time to consider what need to be done over the next 10, 20 and 30 years to reach these objectives. Manuel mask the valid point that this is a room full of people who have very 'strange ideas' and are not afraid to share those ideas. But as a group, we need to work together and realize that Capacity Building need to be central to our efforts. This includes working in low/middle income countries and working with young scholars from those countries as they are the future. This is why various Bursary Scholars have been invited from low and middle income countries to attend the conference and share their research at the poster presentations. This is a conference that acts on what they have recommended, instead of just talking about it. 

Etienne Krug, who is the Director of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability at the World Health Organisation, welcomed guests with a clear statement that this is our opportunity to to continue to bridge the gap between Public Health and Criminology, and "it is up to us to convince the rest of the world that this can be done" and we can achieve our goals to reduce violence, globally. The emphasis was that we need to "develop a Global Plan of Action. This is our change and this is your chance to influence this". Ultimately, we need to identify if we are doing the same thing, just in different ways and a synthesis of data and research is what is needed in order to move forward. 

Visit for more information. 

A. Neaverson

Views are my own. 

(note: posts are written on-the-go on a mobile app so please excuse any typos and errors) 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reception Dinner - Global Violence Reduction Conference 2014

Tonight was the reception drinks and formal dinner for all of us who have arrived for the Global Violence Reduction Conference (see earlier post). As we all got ready at King's College in our guest rooms and student accomodations, we were reminded of our earlier student days, ready to learn.

After venturing over to the Chapel, we entered a space full of specialists from all disciplines and occupations and instantly conversation started to flow. In every group that formed, typical questions were first asked 'Where are you from? What are you presenting?' Then it always led to 'What is your area of research?'. That is when it became clear that what the UBS Optimus Foundation wanted to happen, was actually taking place naturally.

The UBS Optimus Foundation works to support various organisations and projects that have been created to help children who face adversity. The Foundation provides significant financial support to projects that aim to break down barriers that prevent children from realizing their potential.

Patricia Lannen, who is the Programme Director of Child Protection at the UBS Optimus Foundation, has submitted a paper to the conference entitled 'The Role of Philanthropy in the Prevention of Violence against Children'. One key message in this paper is that we need organizations to work together from very different disciplines to create a Violence Prevention Research Capacity and this can not be left in the hands of politicians who are working towards short-term results and are pressured by electoral cycles.

It quickly became evident that discussions around violence prevention were taking place between Political Scientists, Criminologists, Physicians, Psychologists, Members of major Think Tanks from America, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa as well as many other very well established academics. Discussions around the difficulty to get funding for research, access to quality data and lack of political/government support were quite common. But also, similarities between research designs, prediction models and risk and protective factors surfaced. It is evident that there is a very collaborative theme to this conference with the ultimate goal of working together to understand how we can continue to reduce violence globally.

However, the highlight of the night was during dinner when Manuel Eisner (Director of the Violence Research Centre) was named 'Harry Potter'.

A. Neaverson

Global Violence Reduction Conference 2014

With support from the UBS Optimus Foundation, Cambridge University's Institute of Criminology Violence Research Centre (VRC) has collaborated with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to put on an international conference which is set to examine 'Strategies to Reduce Violence by 50% in the Next 30 Years". The VRC aims to advance knowledge of the causes, consequences and prevention of interpersonal violence. The main research interests of the VRC are "The development of aggression over the life-course; Evidence-based violence prevention; The epidemiology and consequences of violent victimisation; The causes for varying levels of violence between societies; and The cross-sectional comparison of risk factors for violence". (

Within the beautiful grounds of King's College in Cambridge, academics, international organisations as well as civil society and philanthropic organisations have come together with the aims to "identify the research we need, the knowledge we have, and the policy recommendations we can make to support the global policy goals of the WHO, especially in the regions most afflicted by violence" (Manuel Eisner, Director of the Violence Research Centre and Deputy & Director of the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge). 

The WHO were given a mandate to strengthen public policy that supports the reduction of violence. The purpose of this conference is to consider previous and on going research conducted by various academics and organisations around the world as a means to create an informed strategy to reduce violence globally. The mandate, set by the World Health Assembly in May 2014, needs to include strategies which are "informed by measurable indicators to assess whether goals are achieved; it will require strengthening of capacities to address and prevent violence in it's different manifestations; it will need multisectoral action plans and policies to reduce the major risk factors for violence". 

A range of topics will be covered over the next two days including:
-Linking Developmental Science and Prevention Research to Intervene More Effectively in Child Development' by Theresa Betancourt from Harvard University
-'Reducing Child Abuse: Tackling Challenges in High Violence Societies' by Bernadette Madrid from University of the Philippines. 
-'Global Strategies to Reduce Violence Against Children' by David Finkelhor from University of New Hampshire 
-'Treating Violent Offenders More Effectively: Alternatives to Punishment' by Friedrich Loesel from University of Cambridge. 

This amazing conference then comes to a finish with a lecture (open to the Public) by Steven Pinker from Harvard University on 'The Past, Present and Future of Violence'. He will address 'the widely-held impression that we are living in extraordinarily violent times, when in fact rates of violence at all scales have been in decline over the course of history'. 

Over the course of the next two days, an attempt will be made to blog about sessions, presenters, ideas, concepts and recommendations put forward to realise the goal to reduce violence by 50% in the next 30 years. 

A. Neaverson 

(Conference blog posts are published on-the-go so please excuse any typos or errors) 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Secure Colleges: A shift in Framework of Youth Justice detention in England

In February 2014 the government published its response to the consultation paper Transforming Youth Custody: Putting Education at the Heart of Detention, revealing a shift in framework of custodial detention for young offenders in England.  As of February 2014, under the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, the government proposes one of the largest in modern reforms of youth justice; the introduction of a framework of secure colleges to house and educate all young offenders.

The issue in brief.

With almost 1,200 young offenders in custody in England and Wales the government have decided to tackle high reoffending rates and expensive secure accommodation facilities with the introduction of new Secure Colleges.

Reportedly 71% of young offenders leave custody and go on to reoffend within 12 months of their release and with an average annual cost for one young offender of £100,000 it has been recognised that the current framework is not having an efficient reduction of recidivism or cost value. Furthermore with in some cases only 12 hours of education provided a week in Young Offender Institute’s (YOI’s) and over half of 15-17 year olds have literacy and numeracy levels of a 7-11 year old, it is evident that the current system is not preparing young offenders with the skills they require for successful rehabilitation and reintegration. 

Nick Clegg MP summarises for BBC News (2014) “Some offenders spend less than one day a week in the classroom. By increasing the amount of time young offenders spend learning, we can help them move away from crime, take responsibility for their actions, and rebuild their lives.”

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) investigated the hours of education received by young offenders in YOI’s and data sourced from a freedom of information request exposed that only 1 in 9 young offenders were actually provided with the 15 hours of contracted education a week. Below is a graph produced by the CSJ to demonstrate an average numbers of hours of education provided per week for each young offender in HM Prison Service Young Offenders’ Institutions in 2011-12.
(Click to Enlarge Photo)
 Source: Centre for Social Justice, 2014.

In some cases the average hours are as low as 8-10 hours a week in contrast with the average 30 hours provided in mainstream education.

Read more about the Centre for Social Justice’s investigation HERE 

The current ‘secure estate’.

Currently there are three types of secure accommodation available for young offenders sentenced to detention in custody.

·         Secure Children’s Homes (SCH’s)

SCH’s provide secure accommodation run by local authorities for 10-14 year olds, varying in size from 8 – 40 bed units. These offer 30 hours of education and training a week and cost on average £200,000 a year per young offender. As of June 2014 there are 105 young offenders in SCH’s

·         Secure Training Centres (STC’s)

STC’s accommodate 12-17 year olds in larger units of 50-80 and currently house 261 young offenders. These are all run by private companies and again provide 20 hours of education and training a week. STCs are also costly, on average £160,000 a year per young offender.

·         Young Offender Institutes (YOI’s)

YOI’s houses young offenders between 15- 21 years old in wings of 30-60, much more like the adult prison setting. They are run by HM Prison Services and private companies and are contracted to provide 15 hours of education per week, costing on average £60,000 per young offender, per year. With the highest proportion of offenders (738 as of June 2014) and the lowest time allocated for education and training purposes (even for those required by legislation to be in education) it is not difficult to see how the reoffending rates from YOIs are particularly high.

For more information on youth custody data click HERE

“Putting Education at the Heart of Custody”.

Under the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (2014) the government have proposed reforms to youth justice system to improve public protection and reduce reoffending. These include plans for the introduction of a Pathfinder Secure College to pilot a framework for new secure educational establishments to replace the previous secure estate. With the primary aims to improve outcomes and reduce costs they put forward an education centred, intense provision following individual learning plans for each offender in purpose built secure accommodation. The colleges will comprise of classrooms, workshops, flexible learning spaces alongside living units for young offenders and intended to house all young offenders (12-17 years old) however separating them by age, gender and vulnerability. Initially the pilot Pathfinder Secure College will be opened in the East Midlands in the spring of 2017 with a 320 place establishment.

(Click to Enlarge Photo)
This image represents the vision of the new pathfinder secure college, a specifically built establishment intended to house and provide education to young offenders in the East Midlands from 2017. Source: Ministry of Justice, 2014.

Secure Colleges aim to integrate multiple agencies to provide a “broad and intensive curriculum to challenge and engage the full range of ages and abilities” (Ministry of Justice, 2014, p.5). With a focus on numeracy and literacy skills, combined with vocational training opportunities and development of interpersonal and practical life skills in an educational setting.  It is hoped that “this will ensure that young people leave with the motivation, self-discipline and independence to commit further studies, training or employment, and to steer clear of crime” (Ministry of Justice, 2014, p.6).

If this scheme is successful then the long term goal is the introduction of secure colleges extending across England and Wales and establishing a network to serve individual regions, eventually withdrawing costly STC’s SCH’s and underperforming YOI’s. The government also hopes that by distributing resources and funding amongst fewer, larger institutions it will be possible to make use of funding more efficiently and bring down the ‘operating cost’ down “significantly below the £100,00 current average” (Ministry of Justice, 2014, p.5).

With the expected opening of the first secure college just under three years away the government proposes changes and improvements to the current secure estate to facilitate youth custody’s main aims – a reduction in reoffending and an increasingly education centred rehabilitation. This intends to provide long term adjustments to youth custody provision which will aid the transition to the new secure colleges.

Primarily it is has been identified that the education provisions in YOI’s are failing to provide the educational requirements for this type of youth custody accommodation, “…consultation responses reaffirmed that it is in YOI’s that education provision is the poorest” (Ministry of Justice, 2014, p.9). In order to improve this new contracts are being drawn up with educational providers and are due to come into force from November 2014. Collaboration and co-ordination between theses education providers, National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and the Youth Justice Board (YJB) is required to maximise the learning opportunities and broaden the curriculum available to young offenders in YOI’s.

“The culture of YOI’s needs to change from being places of detention to places of learning” (Ministry of Justice, 2014, p.9). YOI’s accommodation and services are much closer to the adult prison system in comparison with STC’s and SCH’s, it is suggested that a change in this culture, perpetuated by an integration of education and training delivery with other custodial services. Furthermore, head teachers and senior leadership teams will be posted in YOI’s to service education delivery (these roles will also be integral to the running of secure colleges) working with NOMS who overall will be managing education provision in public sector YOI’s.

Current STC and SCH provision will continue to be available until secure college capacity has been established enough to transfer custody accommodations.

Finally, resettlement is a key issue to address in the changing framework of the youth custody. The emphasis of resettlement has been identified in order to support the young offender in rehabilitation from day one. Instead of the process beginning near the end of a period of detention, the  youth criminal justice system will be integrate their communication and services to prepare and work towards a resettlement plan for each young offender. They plan to do this by vital changes to sentence planning and casework processes in custody. Additionally to aid resettlement education, training or employment will be secured for young offenders to start immediately upon their release. This aims to continue the development of skills and learning that has taken place within secure colleges into the community and will be bolstered by more effective use of ‘release on temporary licence’. ROTL allows a risk assessed young offender to be granted leave of custody for an agreed time to undertake activities to support their resettlement such as; attending school, college or job interviews, visiting housing placements and enrolling on apprenticeships.

The proposed changes to the framework of youth justice present a shift in focus from detention to education centred rehabilitation. It aims to tackle high reoffending rates and low literacy and numeracy levels of young offenders by introducing a network of secure colleges built purposely to accommodate and educate. A drastic overhaul of our current secure estate structure is due to take place with the withdrawal of STC’s, SCH’s and a reduction in YOI’s; although in the lead up to this there a number of suggested improvements in education provisions, providers, delivery and an overall more efficient integration of current services.

With the statistics of lack of education and reoffending so shockingly high it is clear that changes are required and the simple logic that increased high quality educational opportunities for young offenders will need to be successfully implemented over the next 3-5 years in order to achieve the primary goals for youth justice set out by the current government.

To access and read Transforming Youth Custody: Putting Education at the Heart of Detention, Government response to the consultation click HERE

S. Allen.
B.A. (Hons) Criminology

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Youth Justice Board's Budget Reduced by 45% since 2010/11

The Youth Justice Board has released their Corporate Plan and Business Plan which can be found HERE. The Youth Justice Board is a public body whose members are appointed by the Secretary of State for Justice. The main responsibilities are to oversee the youth justice system in England and Wales, work with others to prevent offending and reoffending by children and young people under the age of 18, and to ensure that custody for young people is safe, secure, and addresses the causes of their offending behavior. Visit their website HERE

The YJB has announced in their 2014-2017 Corporate and Business plan that they will be focusing on reducing reoffending of young people by improving resettlement strategies for young people who are released from custody, increasing educational opportunities while in custody, ensuring young people are placed at the secure estates that best suit them, and by creating the secure college pathfinder to be built in spring 2017. More information about the secure college can be found HERE.

In addition to working closely with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the Secretary of State for Justice, the YJB also works with the Home Office. Their mission with the Home Office is to 'prevent anti-social behavior and youth crime, including youth violence and support the delivery of the cross-departmental Ending Gang and Serious Youth Violence strategy and related work to prevent the sexual exploitation of girls'. This is undertaken even though the Home Office has withdrawn all financial support to the YJB this year.

In addition to working with the Home Office, the YJB also works with:
  • Young Offenders - to get their opinion on youth justice and youth offending.
  • The Department of Health - to ensure there are mental health and substance misuse services available to young people in the youth justice system.
  • Department of Education - to ensure education services meet the needs of children and young people.
  • Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) - to support YOT objectives and also make sure YOTs are evaluated and performing to high standards.
  • Secure Accommodation Providers - such as the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), local authorities and private sectors.
  • Voluntary Sectors - with around 6,000 volunteers to support initiatives such as restorative justice, act as appropriate adults for young people in custody, mentors, in prevention or education schemes and with families. If you are interested in volunteering, click HERE
  • Adacemic Community - to ensure that advice and guidance is based upon the latest UK and international research.
The main objectives in their Business plan for 2014/15 are as follows:
  1. Improvement in the delivery of the youth justice system in the community.
  2. To create an under-18 secure estate that better meets the needs of young people.
  3. To make structural and process improvements that support a better youth justice system.
  4. Make sure young people are placed efficiently in the most appropriate establishment.
  5. The safety and well-being of children and young people in the youth justice system is assured.
  6. Practitioners have access to the best advice and support, and use this in practice.
  7. The YJB is seen as an effective and efficient public body.
Needless to say, the YJB has a lot on their plate over the next year. However, their report has indicated that by the end of 2014/15, they will have 'delivered cumulative savings of £525m, with a budget now £210m (45%) less than the 2010/11 baseline'.

This is the breakdown of expenses and savings made:

The YJB is now solely funded by the MoJ following 'the transfer of the Home Office prevention funding from the YJB to police and crime commissioners'. <--- This is another topic for another day...   

One finding based on recent Youth Justice statistics is that there has been a decrease in the number of First Time Entrants (FTEs) into youth custody. This was seen as a result of the positive work of the YJB, which I am sure some of it was. However, in their business plan, the YJB openly admits that in order to deal with the financial challenges stated above, they have incorporated a strategy which is to: 'Maximise savings from having fewer young people in custody by decommissioning beds in the under-18 secure estate'. Well...if you have less money and there are less spaces available in custody for young offenders, then obviously there will be a reduction in the number of FTEs. Is this reduction really an outcome of best practice, or is it simply the outcome of a reduced budget?

This isn't to take away from the hard work that the YJB does to help prevent offending and re-offending. Instead, it is a means to provide a clearer picture of what is really going on and to help us understand that while we are being told that more is being done to help young people in England and Wales, the government is actually spending LESS money on young people at risk of offending and re-offending. It is also important to consider whether or not the government is perhaps embellishing the results of their youth offending statistics by taking credit for the reduction in FTEs, when in reality it is very likely the result of budget cuts and fewer available spaces in youth custody.

A. Neaverson

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Want to know why sharing the video of James Foley's murder is illegal?

According to an article published in the Guardian Wednesday 20 August 2014 "passing on clips of Isis militant murdering US journalist on social media could lead to prosecution under anti-terror laws".

(Photo from The Guardian, Credit Nicole Tung/AP)

According to the Guardian, Scotland Yard has indicated that under terrorism legislation, sharing or viewing the video of James Foley's Murder is illegal. Social Media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are working hard to suspend accounts and remove offensive images. At first, these images were being removed for being 'offensive' and going against their user agreements; but now with legal backing, the clampdown on social media is heightened.

More specifically, according to The Guardian, the Metropolitan police said in a statement: "The MPS counter-terrorism command (SO15) is investigating the contents of the video that was posted online in relation to the alleged murder of James Foley. We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under terrorism legislation".

SO15 is responsible for protecting London and the UK from threats of terrorism. You can find out more about them HERE. I wanted to understand more about why sharing and 'viewing' the video could be considered a crime, and also what part of the Terrorism Legislation sharing videos or pictures falls under.

Having looked at, it appears that Section 1 and Section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006 cover areas that are related to the 'Encouragement of Terrorism". Section 1 starts by saying that Encouragement of Terrorism applies to
"a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences".
It continues:
"A person commits an offence if (a) he publishes a statement to which this section applies or causes another to publish such a statement; and (b) at the time he publishes it or causes it to be published he - (i) intends members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism or Convention offences; or (ii) is reckless as to whether members of the public will be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate such acts or offences".  
If you are re-tweeting something or sharing it on Youtube or Facebook, you are at risk of being seen to make a statement that could be understood by members of the public to be 'directly or indirectly encouraging others or instigating acts of terrorism'. Its possible that by sharing the video and photos, you are fueling feelings of hate which could lead to a reaction. However, even if you DONT end up encouraging someone to 'commit, prepare or instigate any such offence' you can still get in trouble because as stated in subsection 5:
It is irrelevant for the purposes of subsections (1) to (3) (a) whether anything mentioned in those subsections relates to the commission, preparation or instigation of one or more particular acts of terrorism.... (b) whether any person is in fact encouraged or induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate any such act of offence".  
So what this means is that if you share videos or photos, you can be held criminally responsible even if there is no outcome based on your actions. But why do the Met Police warn about viewing videos? This part comes down to the way that Social Media is designed. On Facebook, for example, if you view a video, sometimes this shows up on your 'Facebook Friends' newsfeeds. On Youtube, if you view a video, it increases that video's count which means it moves up in the list of 'search results' which are based on most popular videos. Although it is a stretch, there are still ways that even viewing a video can result in you sharing content which, under the Terrorism Act 2006 is illegal.

If you are still not convinced by this social media crackdown and insist on Freedom of Speech and being able to watch and share what you want, you might want to consider the potential outcomes first. According to Section 1 subsection 7:
A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable - (a) on conviction of indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years or to a fine or both; (b) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum...
Furthermore, Section 2 deals specifically with Dissemination of terrorist publications and subsection 2 states:
...a person engages in conduct falling within this subsection if he - (a) distributes or circulates a terrorist publication; (b) gives, sells or lends such a publication (c) offers such a publication for sale or loan; (d) provides services to others that enables them to obtain, read, listen to or look at such a publication, or to acquire it by means of a gift, sale or loan; (e) transmits the contents of such a publication electronically; or (f) has such a publication in his possession with a view to its becoming the subject of conduct falling within any of paragraphs (a) to (e).
It finishes with: ...
'publication' means an article or record of any description that contains any of the following, or any combination of them - (a) matter to be read; (b) matter to be listened to; (c) matter to be looked at or watched.

This section relates a lot more to the actions that are most likely to be taken across social media platforms. The same sentences apply if a person is found guilty of the offences listed above.

Besides the moral issues surrounding instances of people sharing this video and photos, there are also many legal considerations as well which are leading us into a whole new wave of criminal offences based on technological advances.

A Neaverson 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Crime Statistics in England and Wales - July 2014 Trends

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released current crime statistics which are accompanied by a short video interview with John Flatley, Head of Crime Statistics at ONS HERE. I am surprised that there hasn't been much media coverage, given that the Crime Survey has found such a large decrease in crime when compared to previous years.  

In a report issued by the ONS, Crime has fallen 14% in England and Wales. This percentage is based on the Crime Survey which is distributed to members of the public, and is different from Police Recorded Crimes. The crime survey is based on Victim reported crimes and can include crimes that have not come to the attention of police. This is the lowest estimate of crime since the survey began in 1981. The Crime Survey reports that Violent Crime has fallen by 20%, criminal damage fell by 17% and theft offences decreased by 10% when compared with the previous year.

Police recorded Crimes are crimes that have been brought to the attention of the police and have been formally processed. According to Police Recorded Crime Statistics, there has been no overall change from the previous year. This could be because of the 7% increase in Police Recorded shoplifting offences as well as an increase in offences of Fraud (17%). Sometimes considered 'victimless crimes', these crimes would not be represented as much in the Crime Survey (which we know is completed by Victims). Finally, police recorded sexual offences also saw a rise of 20% from the previous year, which is believed to be an outcome of Operation Yewtree (Jimmy Savile inquiry).

For more information and updated Crime Statistics, please visit the Office for National Statistics by clicking HERE 
A. Neaverson

Friday, July 11, 2014

Victim's Code - Is it enough, or is it toothless?

The announcement this week that the Victim’s CommissionerBaroness Newlove will be conducting reviews to find out if the Criminal JusticeSystem is adhering to the Victims Code is to be welcomed!  Let’s face it, anything that improves an individual’s experience of navigating the daunting criminal justice system after having a crime inflicted on them is to be applauded. 
The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime, otherwise known as the ‘Victim’s Code’ was first introduced in 2006 with a purpose of setting out the services which were to be provided to victims of crimes by criminal justice agencies in England and Wales.  The ‘Code’ was reformed in 2013 and includes entitlements, such as, allowing the victim to read a statement out loud in court, or to have someone else read it for them.  To read a list of ‘entitlements’ in the Victims Code click HERE  

The confusion arises when you find out that the ‘Victims Personal Statement Scheme’ has been in place since 2001; not exactly a new entitlement. And even though being able to read your statement out in court is cited as an entitlement, the court judge can still refuse to allow it. So what are the new ‘entitlements’ in the ‘Victim’s Code’?  There isn’t any. Most entitlements are already being given to victims of crime or should be given.  This gives rise to the question of whether this is just a way of the government acting like it is doing something to help victims, when really it does nothing that isn’t already being done.

There is also the question of whether the ‘Victims Code’ is enough, and what are the consequences for criminal justice agencies for not following it?  Well to try and put it simply; although the ‘Code’ comes under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, if a victim of crime has not received the relevant service, they would have to complain to the relevant service provider and if that doesn’t achieve anything the victim can then take their complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman via their MP. 
So the upshot is there are no real consequences for criminal justice agencies for not following it, and half the time when there are complaints of criminal justice agencies not adhering to the ‘Code’ most agencies point the blame at each other.  Meanwhile, victims suffer whilst agencies play the blame game!

The wider question to be asked is: is the reform of the ‘Victims Code’ going far enough to ensure that victims are put first, and that the system is more responsive and easier to navigate?  Well, it is quite telling that the former head of public prosecutions Kier Starmer, who is now a member of the Labour founded Victim’s Taskforce, has been quoted as saying that:

“From a victim’s point of view, our justice system is hardly fit for purpose”

         (TheGuardian, 2014)
He goes on to say that:

“No doubt individual failings by police and prosecutors provide part of the explanation.  But to suggest these shortcomings are the core problem is complacent, and overlooks the real improvements that have taken place in recent years.  A more radical review of our criminal justice arrangements is long overdue”

                                                                                                                                             (TheGuardian, 2014)

“These measures (Victims Code) are ‘bolt-ons’ to the existing arrangements.  What is needed is a fundamental rethink, leading to a specific and legally enforceable Victim’s Law alongside a real and radical shift in attitude and approach”

Although Starmer does not specifically detail what he means by a ‘Victim’s law’ I agree with elements of his views, such as, that there needs to be a radical shift in attitude and approach.  Why he didn’t do anything about it whilst in his previous role is beyond me!  But maybe a move away from an adversarial system to an inquisitorial system could be the answer?  Who knows, but it is worth investigating. 

One thing about the ‘Code’ which baffles me and highlights the need for radical reform is the point at which it states that “victims of crime should be treated in a respectful, sensitive and professional manner without discrimination of any kind. They should receive appropriate support to help them, as far as possible, to cope and recover and be protected from re-victimisation”. 

This point baffles me due to the fact that it does not seem to apply to defence barristers who are sometimes responsible for re-victimising victims of serious sexual offences amongst other crimes.  There are many women who speak of being ‘raped all over again ‘and traumatised by defence barristers’ up and down the country.  It seems that the ‘Code’ will look after you until you cross the threshold into the courtroom and your time comes to stand in front of a defence barrister, when you are made to go through every minute detail of the crime in front of total strangers and have your character, integrity and life ripped to shreds and dragged through the mud.  Legal professionals, such as defence barristers, have been the culprits a lot of the time; they have been the authors of a lot of problems over the years with the way that victims have been treated. 
So why then are defence barristers allowed to behave like this? Something needs to change! 

Additionally, why do rape victims feel like they are on trial and have limited (5 minutes before going into the courtroom) time with the CPS prosecutor?  Actually come to think of it, why do rape victims not have anybody fighting their corner in the courtroom? The CPS prosecutor works for the crown and the defence barrister works for the defendant (the defendant is able to have unlimited time with his barrister/solicitor).  This is surely not fair!

Here are a few cases where the treatment of rape victims by defence barristers could have been better.

 After highlighting the issues with defence barristers, it is interesting to highlight the fact that there has been much emphasis on how the police respond to rape victims, and how this could potentially have an impact on the low reporting rates for rape.  When in actual fact it is more likely to be that individuals who have been raped know what they have to go through in a courtroom which could actually be what is putting rape victims off reporting these crimes. 
In the academic field of Criminology the idea of improving victim’s experiences and ‘rebalancing’ the Criminal Justice System to recognise the needs of the victim is not a new concept.  It has been around since the 1940’s and comes in the form of what is called ‘Victimology’. 
Academics argue that the increasing concern with rebalancing victims ‘rights’ can be dangerous as it tends to suggest that defendants have more rights than victims, and that to improve victim’s rights would have to make rights for defendants worse.  And it goes on to state that changing the system to allow victims more rights could change the fundamental principles of criminal justice; if that happens they say victims would gain nothing.
Academics argue that criminal justice should not be thought of as a balancing act between defendant and victim.  The focus should be on the general principles that underpin the system of criminal justice.  Put simply, the rights of victims should be abandoned and replaced with a concept that focuses on the right for everybody to be treated in a fair manner.
It is fair to say that victim’s right have come a long way from the 1940’s.  However there is still a fair way to go, and no doubt this debate will continue to rage on until the government take proper action to improve the rights of victims, specifically victims of serious sexual abuse.

J. Taylor

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rolf Harris and the Celebrity Justice System

The CJS: Criminal Celebrity Justice System.

 It has probably not escaped most people’s attention that there is a debate raging on about whether or not the sentence handed down to Rolf Harris is appropriate. Some are of the opinion that the sentence is not long enough, or too lenient in proportion to the offences he was convicted of. Some believe that as a man of 84, there is little benefit to putting him in jail, and some going so far as to believe that a man of this age is incapable of being a further danger to women (whether or not the offending stopped in later life this view genuinely frightens me). In my own opinion, I have several problems with the sentences passed down on Rolf Harris last week.

 Firstly, in the sentencing comments by Mr Justice Sweeney he spoke of considering that Mr Harris be enabled to spend his 'twilight years' with his family. My major contention with this issue is the length of time that his abusing went undetected, unreported, and I suppose more to the point unpunished. Whilst it may seem pointless to some; sending a man who probably won't live to fulfil his full sentence to prison, I would ask those people to consider the effect that the abuse has had on the victim(s), the knowledge and anguish they have held for lengthy periods of time knowing that their abuser has been afforded the freedom to live peacefully in a way that was taken from them. I would also suggest that this be reason to not consider his age a mitigating factor, he has, for decades been able to spend time with his family, I seriously wonder why this luxury should be granted to him now just because he has been discovered so late in his life.

 My second issue is with whether his celebrity status was a factor in a lower sentence length, as his other 'contributions to society through entertainment and charity work' also seem to have been considered. Teachers and care home workers are all in the position to make great contributions, but when these positions are manipulated to enable sexual offending, it is considered to be a gross breach of trust, and therefore, I have to wonder the extent to which their contributions are considered mitigating factors. If a teacher whom abused several children was also supporting many others towards achieving good grades etc, would this be considered a worthy enough contribution to society to warrant a lowered sentence in the same way that the charity work of a popular entertainer may be? Somehow the scales feel tipped, though on research, sentence lengths for so called non-celebrity historic abuse cases still seem lenient in my eyes anyway; the reason behind this brings me on to my third point:

 Concurrent sentences. Under guidelines for concurrent sentencing, when several charges are pursued, if a person were to be sentenced consecutively this may result in an overall sentence length considered disproportionate to the crimes committed, and therefore concurrent sentencing is used to consider the offences as a whole. While I see some sense to this, in this case along with those of Stuart Hall and Max Clifford I feel it has been grossly miscalculated to the benefit of the convicted party.  According to the sentencing council guidelines, when multiple sentences are to be served concurrently, it may be that some are increased in length through the consideration of aggravating factors to reflect the overall criminality and the amount of harm caused to the victims.  With this in mind, receiving 12-15 month sentences for offences which even under the 1956 act carry a maximum sentence of 2 years, does not reflect the purpose set out in these guidelines. 

I understand the sensibility behind concurrent sentencing, however, with this case it seems that whilst the mitigating circumstances have been taken into account, there is a distinct lack of consideration for the aggravating factors that should have been applied to the sentences of the six sexual offences to be served concurrently.  As I’ve previously said, each of these carry at lowest, a maximum sentence of 2 years (and for the most recent charges, up to 10 years). It is astounding that it appears the psychological effect on his victims has been disregarded with the knowledge Rolf Harris is likely to serve just half of his sentence in prison.

J. Ison
B.A. (Hons) Crime & Investigative Studies

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"The 'innocent years', not so innocent anymore..."

I’ll be honest when I say that the recent charges brought against Rolf Harris have ruined a giant chunk of what are often considered our ‘innocent years’ for me. He was made famous for his likeable TV personality, his remarkable ability as a painter, his funny and original performances, but now etched on the brains of thousands he is nothing but a molester. Believe me when I tell you, I used to rush in from playing outside to watch Animal Hospital every week; it was a firm favourite in my household. But like so many other entertainers, Rolf Harris has fallen short and it has been revealed that he abused that adoration and trust of so many young girls, no different to myself, and exploited them for his own sexual gratification. Perhaps the most surprising of all the recent sexual abuse revelations was Rolf himself; this coupled with his firm denial of all charges and constant support from his wife and daughter, made it that more bitter to find out he was guilty of all charges.

Down to the nitty gritty so to speak, Harris was charged with five years and nine months. In reality, he will only likely serve half his sentence, due to an overwhelming number of mitigating circumstances. Four of his victims were young children, he used his fame in order to take advantage of their trust, and perhaps most chilling of all was his repeated abuse of daughter Bindi’s best friend.

This whole saga throws hundreds of questions into the mix, not just about Rolf Harris, but about all those famous who have been thrown back into the spotlight for exploiting their celebrity status for their own seedy needs. What was it that compelled them to carry out these acts, some of which were so blatant, and more often than not live on TV? In a number of these cases, it appears that this was just commonplace, and people expected it of many of those charged. I’ve read many articles in which a number of people stated that to be chosen by these men was in fact an honour; it meant you were one of the pretty girls, that you were in fact lucky. That whole concept absolutely horrifies me. Was it merely because ‘everyone was doing it’, so Rolf Harris deemed it acceptable or is there a much darker, more sinister side to him? For many, the constant denial is a total lack of remorse, so maybe really he is the worst of all the entertainers.

I think what is most disturbing about all these cases, is the fact that many are not surprised by these outcomes; it’s almost as if we have accepted that the 70’s was the decade of the perve. Which leads me to wonder, when I enter my 40’s and 50’s will I begin to see stories emerge of the great entertainers of my teens having copped a feel of young girls? Or maybe the limitless media attention out there these days is too much of a risk, coupled with the overwhelming number of laws put in place in order to combat these horrific life-ruining crimes which seem so very present in our news every week. What is clear to see is that even those most respected of TV personalities are capable of the most unimaginable crimes, and that the ‘innocent years’ are over from more than one perspective.

 B.A. (Hons) Criminology

To read a previous post about Rolf Harris and the sentencing decisions, click on the link to the right, or click here

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sexual Offender who has been sentenced for 12 counts of abuse and victimized at least 4 young girls will spend less than 3 years in Prison: Rolf Harris

By A. Neaverson

If you were to read the headline without the celebrity name attached, you would be absolutely appalled by the seemingly lenient sentence. However, in today’s society we have become more accepting of responses such as ‘Yeah, that’s what I expected because he is so famous’. Since when did we fall back into the pre-classical approaches to criminal justice and have one set of laws for the rich and another for the poor?

Rolf Harris has been sentenced to 5 years and 9 months in prison, meaning he is likely to spend less than 3 years physically behind bars. Furthermore, he will not be ordered to pay compensation to his victims. According to the BBC, Rolf showed no emotion while his sentence was being read out; maybe he didn’t know if he should cry or smile.

As described within the Sentencing Remarks of Mr Justice Sweeney found here, Rolf Harris was sentenced for 12 counts of indecent assault on 4 victims who were aged between 8 and 19 at the time. He received the following sentences for each count:

Count 1: 9 months’ imprisonment.

Count 2: 6 months’ imprisonment consecutive.

Count 3: 15 months’ imprisonment consecutive

Count 4: 15 months’ imprisonment concurrent

Count 5: 15 months’ imprisonment concurrent

Count 6: 12 months imprisonment concurrent

Count 7: 15 months’ imprisonment consecutive

Count 8: 12 months’ imprisonment concurrent

Count 9: 12 months’ imprisonment consecutive

Count 10: 9 months’ imprisonment concurrent

Count 11: 9 months imprisonment concurrent.

Count 12: 12 months’ imprisonment consecutive.
 Some people are asking But what did he do?”, “Didn’t he just grope a few girls? Back in the day that wasn’t uncommon. Well let me help you to get a better picture of what Rolf Harris did to innocent children.
You indecently assaulted ‘A’ in 1969 (when she was aged 8 and you were aged 39). You did so when you made an appearance at the Leigh Park Community Centre in Havant, and she approached you for your autograph. Others were present. Taking advantage of your celebrity status, you twice put your hand up her skirt between her legs and touched her vagina over her clothing.
Victim 'C' - Age 13, took her on holiday and indecently assaulted her; and again when she was 15. You left your wife and ‘C’’s parents downstairs and you went up to ‘C’’s bedroom on the top floor of the house....."
Ill stop there, but if you want to know "what did he do" the judge summarises it here.

So why did he only get less than 6 years... or 6 months per offence? Because of his Mitigating Factors (which are factors that work in favour of the defendant and can result in a lesser sentence). According to the sentencing remarks, the judge considered the following mitigating factors as part of his sentencing decision:
“On your behalf I am asked to take into account a number of matters in mitigation, including the following:

(1) With the exception of ‘C’ the offences were brief and opportunistic. 

(2) The fact that you have no previous convictions and have led an upright life since 1994 ‐albeit it is accepted that that must be tempered by the reality, underlined in the Attorney General’s Reference (above), that you got away with your offending for years. 

(3) The fact that you have a good side, that there are many people who know you who speak well of you, and that over many years you have dedicated yourself to a number of charitable causes.

(4) The fact that you are not in the best of health, as attested to in the report of Dr Fertleman, and that therefore, although capable of serving a prison sentence, it will be particularly tough on you. 

(5) The fact that your wife, who you help in looking after, has various health problems, as attested to in the report of Dr Mitchell‐Fox. 

(6) That you should be enabled to spend your twilight years with your family.”

I’m sorry, but that’s just not good enough for me. The mitigating factor that I think we especially need to reconsider is the last one, “That you should be enabled to spend your twilight years with your family”. What about the young women’s right to spend their childhood without having it ruined by a sexual predator. Forget about their childhood; the events that took place have ruined their adolescents and impacted their adult years as well, not to mention the outcome that this trial will now have on them. They have been suffering for over 30 years, yet the judge says that Rolf Harris should be enabled to spend his last few years within the safe comfort of his family. It appears that the Mitigating factors are being put before the negative outcomes that his victims have been dealing with for their entire lives.  

Rolf Harris was sentenced based on ‘sentencing historic sexual offences set out in Annex B of the current Sentencing Council Definitive Guideline” which means that the “maximum sentence on Count 1 is one of 5 years imprisonment, on each counts 2-9 it is one of 2 years imprisonment, and on each of counts 10-12 it is one of 10 years”. Today, these offences attract significantly higher maximum sentences, but regardless, as stated “on each of Counts 10-12 it is one of 10 years” for a maximum sentence meaning he could have received more time in prison.

Perhaps this is why, according to the BBC “the sentence of five years and nine months has already been referred to the Attorney General's Office under the ‘unduly lenient sentence scheme’". To read more about the unduly lenient sentence, click here

It would be interesting to look at a comparison of this ‘celebrity status’ with a normal ‘citizen status’ case to see if the types of sentences are similar, or if they have been impacted by his celebrity status.