In my opinion, criminal defence does not get the credit it deserves. Representing someone who has no idea of the law, sometimes cannot articulate very well, and may have mental health, drug or alcohol problems in stopping them doing so, is a valued position and something that I aspire to do. The reaction I have received from most of my peers has been “Why would you want to help a criminal?” Everyone needs help, whether guilty or not, but that’s a can of worms I will save for another time.
The reason for writing this edition of my blog is that once a client has been cautioned, reprimanded at the station, or acquitted or convicted at the Courts, and received their sentence, their case has come to an end, and all dealings stop. Legal aid ceases and all enquiries are directed elsewhere.
I am intrigued as to what happens next. I started research and looked in to probation, rehabilitation and other ways in which offenders can get help. All things I know nothing about.
My first stop was the Ministry of Justice website. The MOJ have recently released their re-offending statistics. It is an interesting read for anyone with an interest in criminology and an interest in numbers. Thankfully I have both. Although be warned it is 90 pages long. This was certainly an occasion to gear up for – a nice cup of tea and a notebook.
The report covers all offenders whether custodial sentences, non-custodial, caution reprimand or warning and also covered positive results on drugs tests. According to The Times newspaper: “The number of hardened criminals reoffending is at a record high while the number of first-time offenders has dropped in England and Wales. The latest criminal justice statistics show nearly a third (31.2%) of defendants convicted of serious offences (crown court offences) last year had 15 or more previous convictions or cautions. The number is the highest since 2001 when it was 17.9% and has risen steadily. The Ministry of Justice’s quarterly update also said 10.1% of offenders convicted of indictable offences in 2011 had no previous criminal offences. The figures added that the 31.2% figure with 15 or more previous offences was an increase of 13.3% since 2001.” But what is all down to?
You can find the MOJ 2012 re-offending stats here: http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/statistics/reoffending/2012-compendium-reoffending-stats-analysis.pdf
Whilst on the long train ride to London for the “Justice in the Community debate” (My blog on the debate can be found here: https://gemmab82.wordpress.com/2012/07/15/justice-in-the-community-do-we-get-it/), I took with me the Civitas (the Institute for the Study of Civil Society) report entitled: Acquisitive Crime: Imprisonment, Detection and Social Factors and this made for a very interesting read. This study is based on the importance of law enforcement versus socio-economic factors. In short, this study attempts to reflect that the longer a prisoner serves, the less likely they will be to reoffend. (http://www.civitas.org.uk/crime/crimeanalysis2012.pdf). I completely understand that you cannot apply this theory to all convicts but surely more needs to be done to attempt a solution to re-offending. My research continues…
The largest organisation, with wonderful success stories, that assist and monitor offenders is of course The Probation Service and is the main point for convicts who require help, whether it be with reoffending, understanding why they commit offences, turning their back on a life of crime, assistance with their alcohol or drug problems, counseling, or community payback.
I cannot mention The Probation Service without mentioning this wonderful blog by Russell Webster: http://www.russellwebster.com/ Zoe Staffs is a contributor and has a lot to say for great probation officers.
The local council also has a programme in which young offenders can join, as well as non-offenders of a similar age. “Sport 4 NRG” is run in a local leisure centre and is aimed at keeping young people out of trouble and off the streets and focus their energy in sports. In the last event, they were successful in that only 1 out of the 12 offenders had re-offended since participating in this programme.
I would love the opportunity to speak to more offenders about how they find life after sentence. Is re-offending through choice, or a preferred lifestyle?
I still feel that I do not know enough, but I am guessing that will come with time and more research. Thank you for reading my ramblings. Until next time…