Category Archives: Press Releases
CONVERSE LEADER COMMENT 22/10/2012. 10.am
TOUGH BUT INTELLIGENT – REALLY?
The editor of Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales has said he is ‘deeply sceptical’ as to whether David Cameron can deliver his ‘Tough But Intelligent’ policy on reducing crime to take place later today – précis follows at the end of this Press Release.
Mark Leech said: “I very much welcome this revisiting of criminal justice policy, but equally I am deeply sceptical about whether David Cameron can actually deliver his ‘Tough But Intelligent’ criminal justice agenda because whether you call it the ‘Rehabilitation Revolution’ as he does, or as Tony Blair called it 15 years ago ‘Tough on Crime Tough on the Causes of Crime” it is ultimately about the same thing in practice; rhetoric about reducing crime.
“And, while Tony Blair had all the resources of Government behind him in 1997 to deliver his tough on crime tough on the causes of crime policy, we no longer have that luxury – and even with all the resources Blair gave us 3000 new criminal offences, 25,000 more prisoners and he failed to address entirely the Tough on the Causes of Crime part of the policy at all.
“Blair left us with even more of the high crime inner city housing estates that existed when he came to power, and with precisely the same degree of unemployment, school exclusions, poor parenting, drug misuse and gang cultures existing when he left.
“Forced by a lack of resources to fund his policy Cameron is turning to the private and voluntary sector to help him deliver his ‘Tough But Intelligent’ policy to be announced later today, relying on a ‘Payments By Results’ method of funding it – but behind the scenes I can tell you there are huge arguments about what the ‘Payment By Results’ mechanism actually means – what ‘results’ amount to ‘results’, who assesses those ‘results’ and what level of ‘payment’ are we talking about here?
“When you start to probe and ask questions the ‘Payment By Results’ policy starts to unravel – if someone commits ten offences one year but only two the next is that a successful ‘result’ for which ‘payment’ will be made?
“If someone commits Grievous Bodily Harm one year but is then convicted of common assault the next, is that a successful ‘result’ for which ‘payment’ will be made?
“My fear is that like the Tough on Crime Tough on the Causes of Crime policy blind alley of Blair, we will get to the next election with exactly the same massive gap between the promise and the reality that we were faced with then – and in which there are no winners, just a society that has once again missed an opportunity to turn rhetoric into reality.”
Converse, the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales: read it here
EXTRACTS FROM DAVID CAMERON’S SPPECH EXPECTED LATER TODAY.
The Prime Minister is expected to say:
Two weeks ago, I spoke about this Government’s mission: to build an aspiration nation…
…where those who work hard can get on – and no one gets left behind.
A stronger private sector. Welfare that works. Schools that teach.
Today I want to talk about another, critical, part of helping people rise up…
…and that is confronting the crime and bad behaviour that holds so many down.
Go to some neighbourhoods in our country and you can feel that aspiration is dead.
Children learning from a young age that life is about surviving, not thriving.
Gang leaders as role models…
…drug dealers as career advisors.
This doesn’t just matter to the elderly lady with five bolts on her front door…
…or the woman terrified to walk home in the dark.
It matters to all of us.
We will not rise as a country if we leave millions behind and write off whole communities.
So today I want to tell you about our approach to crime and justice – and the bold, unprecedented action we’re taking.
For many people, I’m the person associated with those three words, two of which begin with ‘H’, and one of which is ‘hoodie’…
…even though I never actually said it.
For others, I’m the politician who has argued for tough punishment.
So do I take a tough line on crime – or a touchy-feely one?
In no other public debate do the issues get polarised like this.
On climate change you don’t have to be in denial or campaigning to get every car off the road.
Life isn’t that simple – so government policy isn’t that simple.
And yet with the crime debate, people seem to want it black or white.
Lock ‘em up or let ‘em out.
Blame the criminal or blame society.
‘Be tough’ or ‘act soft’.
We’re so busy going backwards and forwards we never move the debate on.
What I have been trying to do – in opposition and now in government – is break out of this sterile debate and show a new way forward: tough, but intelligent.
We need to be tough because the foundation of effective criminal justice is personal responsibility.
Committing a crime is always a choice.
That’s why the primary, proper response to crime is not explanations or excuses, it is punishment – proportionate, meaningful punishment.
And when the crime is serious enough, the only thinkable punishment is a long prison sentence.
This is what victims – and society – deserve.
Victims need to know the criminal will be held to account and dealt with.
And the ‘society’ bit matters: retribution is not a dirty word, it is important to society that revulsion against crime is properly recognised.
But punishment is what offenders both deserve and need, too.
It says to them: “You are adults. Your actions have consequences.”
To treat criminals as victims – to say they had no choice – is to treat them like children.
I firmly believe in their right to be treated as adults, with the responsibility to carry the consequences of their actions.
But that’s not the whole story.
Just being tough isn’t a successful strategy in itself.
Come with me to any prison in this country.
There you’ll meet muggers, robbers, and burglars.
But you’ll also meet young men who can’t read, teenagers on drugs, people who’ve never worked a day in their life.
These people need help so they can become part of the solution and not remain part of the problem.
Recognising this isn’t soft, or liberal.
It’s common sense.
We’ll never create a safer society unless we give people, especially young people, opportunities and chances away from crime.
Prevention is the cheapest and most effective way to deal with crime – everything else is simply picking up the pieces of failure that has gone before.
That’s part of what I mean by being intelligent as well as tough.
Not just saying what people want to hear, not playing to the gallery, but thinking hard about dealing with the causes of crime as well as the fall-out.
And today, being intelligent has got to mean something else too…
…achieving our ambitions when there is much less money than there used to be.
The politics of the blank cheque are well and truly over.
The only way to achieve our ambitions is reform – radical, intelligent reform.
So much of what went wrong in public services under the last Government wasn’t because the money was missing, it was that the methods were wrong.
Top-down, bureaucratic, centralising.
Judging every service by the money you put in and not by the service you got out.
Our whole reform agenda is about turning this on its head.
Going from big government to big society…
…more choice, more competition, more openness.
You see it in welfare providers paid by results…
…and hospitals publishing their results online.
Some say, this is fine in welfare, hospitals or schools, but it won’t work in criminal justice.
They think when it comes to keeping people safe, we’ve got to stick with the old, state-heavy approach.
It was the old approach that gave us police stuck behind desks filling in forms.
It left us with the criminal justice system chasing ridiculous, unhelpful targets.
And it left us with sky-high re-offending rates.
So we are bringing the logic of our public service reform agenda – transparency, payment by results, accountability – to transform criminal justice too.
Because every part of that system needs change.
Every part needs tough, but intelligent reform.
And today, I want to explain how that’s working, right through the criminal justice system.
I’m not going to try and out-bid any other politician on toughness, saying “let’s just bang them up for longer, let’s have more isolation, and once they’re out they’re on their own.”
I say: let’s use that time we’ve got these people inside to have a proper positive impact on them, for all our sakes.
It’s not a case of ‘prison works’ or ‘prison doesn’t work’ – we need to make prison work.
And once people are on the outside, let’s stick with them, let’s give them proper support…
…because it’s not outer space we’re releasing these people into – it’s our streets, our towns, among our families and our children.
That’s why this Government is engaged in what can only be described as a rehabilitation revolution – led by the new Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
His main, driving mission is this: to see more people properly punished, but fewer offenders returning to the system.
To achieve that, we’re saying to charities, companies and voluntary organisations – come and help us rehabilitate our prisoners.
Give offenders new skills. Educate them.
If they’ve been in a gang, send a reformed gang member to meet them at the prison gates and take them under their wing.
If they’re on drugs, try the latest techniques to get them clean.
Do whatever it takes to get these people back living decent, productive lives.
We will pay you for that…
…but – and it is a major but – once again the payments will depend on results.
We’re going to pay people by the lives they turn around.
Just think of what this means for the taxpayer.
When this Government came to power we were spending £40,000 a year just on banging people up.
With payment by results, your money goes into what works…
…prisoners going straight, crime coming down, our country getting safer.
It’s such a good idea I want to put rocket boosters under it…
…indeed today I have an announcement to make.
By the end of 2015, I want to see payment by results spread right across rehabilitation.
Of course, there will be some high-risk offenders for whom this is not appropriate…
…but this approach should be the norm rather than the exception.
And I want to see rehabilitation reach more of those who would benefit from it.
Today, rehab just goes to those who have been inside for a year or more.
But that misses all those who go in for shorter sentences yet re-offend time and time again.
So I want to look at making them part of the rehabilitation revolution too.
CONVERSE PRESS RELEASE
The National Prisoners Newspaper for England and Wales
10th March 2012, 1400hrs – NO Embargo
“Rathband’s Law – Why Exclude Prison Officers”
As the Memorial Service got under way for PC David Rathband with a call for donations to his ‘Blue Lamp Foundation’ that seeks to provide help to those injured in public emergency services, the national prisoners newspaper Converse has asked why once again prison officers who are injured are excluded from the fund.
Mark Leech, editor of Converse said: “Questions from the national prisoners newspaper as to why prison officers are excluded from help by this foundation may seem strange, but we believe everyone in the prison environment has the right to be safe – whatever side of the cell door they may stand on.
“There were 2,856 assaults on prison staff in 2010-11, of which 304 were classified as serious.
“Prison officers fulfil a vital but often unseen role in our society, taking care of dangerous individuals who the ‘emergency services’ often pass on to them without recognition – it is time they were acknowledged for the work they do and the terrible injuries they so often suffer in silence.”
A former chief inspector of prisons has been appointed as the new chairwoman of the independent police watchdog, the Home Secretary said today – but it has been described as ‘a disaster’ by the editor of the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse.
Dame Anne Owers, who was chief inspector of prisons from 2001 to 2010, is the second person to take up the permanent position at the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Dame Anne, who will take an annual salary of £60,000, said: “I am delighted to be joining the IPCC at this exciting time of change and challenge for the commission and the police service.
“The IPCC’s independent investigation and oversight plays a critical role in ensuring public confidence in policing, and I look forward to working with the commissioners and staff as they continue to carry it out.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said she “has considerable experience of criminal justice and a formidable public reputation”.
Dame Anne “will challenge all parties to get to the truth and ensure that the organisation provides a fair, transparent and trusted service to the public and police”, Mrs May said.
Jane Furniss, the IPCC’s chief executive, said: “Dame Anne Owers’ experience of leading organisations based on independence could not be stronger.
“This, coupled with her wealth of knowledge from across the criminal justice system makes for an exciting new era for the IPCC.
“I welcome the appointment and very much look forward to working with her to build upon the last eight years and take the work of the IPCC forward.”
Deborah Glass, the deputy chairwoman of the IPCC, added: “This is timely with the recently launched review of the way that we investigate our most serious cases, the work we are doing on police corruption and the increasingly high number of independent investigations we are conducting.”
Nick Hardwick, the current Chief Inspector of Prisons, was previously the IPCC chairman.
Dame Anne will take over from the current interim chairman Len Jackson and was appointed by the Queen following recommendations from the Home Secretary and Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Hardwick said: “This is excellent news.
“Anne did a brilliant job when she was the chief inspector of prisons and I can’t think of anyone better to chair the IPCC.
“The IPCC role is a tough job and I and all her former colleagues at the inspectorate wish her well.”
But Mark Leech, editor of the national prisoners’ newspaper Converse said the appointment was “a disaster” for police complaints.
Mr Leech said: “As pleasant as Anne Owers is as a person the reality of her eight-year tenure as Chief Inspector of Prisons was that she was a failure who achieved nothing positive.
“All that she did as Chief Inspector was to quietly tip-toe what was a vibrant, fiercely independent Prisons Inspectorate back inside the strait-jacket of the Ministry of Justice, silencing the once powerful voice that her predecessors, Judge Stephen Tumin and Lord Ramsbotham, had fought so hard have heard – and she will do the same to the IPCC.
“It’s a disaster for the independence of police complaints”
Justice minister Nick Herbert today called for magistrates’ courts to be opened during the night and at weekends.
The Conservative MP said the efficiency shown by the courts in dealing with defendants charged over the August riots highlighted the benefits of extended opening hours.
He told The Sunday Times: “We need to learn from the response to the riots, where cases took days or even hours rather than the usual weeks or months.
“We saw courts sit through the night and the Magistrates’ Association has pointed out that many of its lay members might prefer to work in the evenings or at weekends.
“Swift justice is currently the exception but it should be the rule.”
A spokesman for HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said it would be considering the lessons learned from the “extraordinary response” following the riots.
He said: “Magistrates’ courts are always able to – and routinely deal with – a small number of serious cases, where defendants are held in police custody, within 24-48 hours of charge.
“The difference that we saw in August was the sheer numbers of people held in police custody for serious offences. It was primarily this that necessitated the 24-hour sittings.
“HMCTS will be considering lessons learned from the riots in the coming weeks, including more flexible opening hours.”
Earlier this year double shift sittings were piloted at Croydon Crown Court, and officials are examining if the scheme could be extended to offer better value for money.
Up to £1 million a year will be taken from the wages of prisoners who work in communities and used to support victims of crime, ministers said today.
About 500 inmates who work outside prisons will see their take-home pay cut by up to 40% and used to help support victims as part of Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke’s rehabilitation revolution, the Ministry of Justice said.
Ministers are also planning to bring in powers to target the wages of prisoners working inside jails, but the average prisoner working behind bars receives just £10 per week.
Policing Minister Nick Herbert said: “For too long the financial burden of repairing the damage done by crime has fallen to the taxpayer alone.
“Making offenders pay financial reparation to victims will require them to take personal responsibility for their crimes and go some way towards making redress to victims through the funding of crucial support services.”
Under the Prisoners’ Earnings Act which comes into force today, 40% of prisoners’ wages over £20 per week – after tax, National Insurance and any court-ordered or child support payments – will be deducted and given to Victim Support.
Javed Khan, the charity’s chief executive, said the money will be used “to deliver real, practical support for victims and communities”.
“Getting prisoners working and developing workplace skills should help them on the path to reform,” he said.
“This will be very much welcomed by victims as they are united in wanting offenders to stop committing crimes.”
Victims’ Commissioner Louise Casey added: “Victims want criminals to be punished for their crimes and make amends for the harm they have caused.
“I believe the principle of criminals contributing to the costs of support for victims should be extended, and am hopeful that the Government will now extend the victims’ surcharge that judges and magistrates impose such that it applies to all offenders.”
Tory plans for a Victims’ Fund were outlined by David Cameron when the Tories were still in opposition in March 2008.
Mr Khan told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I think we should celebrate that, for once, we’ve got an initiative that puts victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.
“It’s rhetoric we’ve heard for many years. With this initiative, the victims will recognise that the Government is doing something to make offenders put back some of what they’ve done to society.”
Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national prisoners newspaper said: “I am very much in favour of victims being given a better deal, absolutely, but this won’t achieve that, its a con trick.
“I object to it in both principle and practice.
“In principle it is wrong because it is for the Courts to impose fines for criminal conduct and not for Government ministers to substitute their view of what the sentence should have included.
“What’s more it is wrong to foist responsibility for these payments on those prisoners who have made the most progress in prison and earned the right to work outside in a position of trust.
“I also object to it in practice – because I am highly dubious that it will make £1M a year or anything like it, and even if it does the truth is that not a single penny of it will find its way into the pockets of the victims of crime, it will all land up in government coffers with no audit trail of how or on what it is spent.”
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the work with victims should be funded in other ways.
“I’m very dubious that this is going to raise anything like a million pounds from people who are working already in the community,” she said.
She added that the real problem was the issue of 30,000 males serving long sentences spending “20 years lying on their bunks in pyjamas” rather than working.
Commenting on the scheme, she said employers might not co-operate and prisoners might not work, adding: “So Victim Support will lose out, the community will lose out, people won’t have a job to come out to when they are released – everybody will lose.
“I think this is a mistaken interpretation of the very good principle that prisoners should be working.”
Penal Reform charity, The Howard League, are ‘out of touch with reality’ said the deputy editor of the national prisoners newspaper Converse, after the charity claimed people prefer to go to jail than complete a community sentence.
The claim was made by gaff-prone Howard League Press Officer Sophie Willett (above), a journalist who once claimed the one thing she did not enjoy was reading newspapers.
Peter Johnson, deputy editor of Converse said: “It’s ridiculous to claim people actually prefer to go to jail than have their freedom, Willett should do more research because it seems every time she opens her mouth her brain falls out.
“No one in their right mind prefers jail to freedom and to claim such a position just confirms that the Howard League is as out of touch with reality as many people have come to accept.”