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The criminal justice system in the United Kingdom

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1601 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Justice is a human rights and law reform organization based in the United Kingdom. It is the British section of the International Commission of Jurists, the international human rights organization of lawyers devoted to the legal protection of human rights worldwide. Consequently, members of JUSTICE are predominantly barristers and solicitors, judges, legal academics, and law students.

The main areas of Justice’s work are:

Human rights

Criminal justice

European Union (EU) law

The rule of the law

The word fair is defined by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2009) as “marked by impartiality and honesty, free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” Related words include just, equitable, impartial, unbiased, dispassionate, and objective, all of which mean “free from favor toward either or any side.” One additional term that is important for understanding fairness is “desert.” Desert refers to getting what you deserve, as in reward or punishment.

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The Criminal Justice System of England and Wales:

The Criminal Justice System (CJS) is one of the major public services in the country, with over 400,000 staff across six agencies which work together to deliver criminal justice. The core agencies are the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts, the National Offender Management Service (which covers prisons and probation) and the Youth Justice Board (which oversees Youth Offending Teams). Some services and initiatives within the CJS are run by a number of voluntary groups such as Victim Support and the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO). The substantive aspect of the law reflects the “what” of the law, in that laws are created to define certain behaviors as crimes and to provide punishments for violations of those laws.

Two main goals of Criminal Justice System:

One goal of the criminal justice system is to reduce crime. Reducing crime can be achieved through ‘reactive means’, such as responding to a call for service, making an arrest, obtaining a criminal conviction, and carrying out the punishment imposed by the court, or through ‘proactive means’, such as eliminating the conditions that produce criminality.

Another goal of criminal justice system is justice. They have to assure that they give justice to everyone without any discrimination. Justice should be above everything. Favorism should be eliminated from the root.

Is criminal justice system fair?

Before you decide whether the system is fit for purpose you have to decide what that purpose is. There is too much pressure on the criminal justice system because it is supposed to solve society’s ills. But it is not the answer to everything; it can’t be used to cope with the mentally ill, the homeless and problem teenagers. That’s not what it is designed for; it can never be fit for that purpose. Politicians have created a panic about crime so the public now fear there won’t be enough space in prison for all the people who are guilty of offences. They have trapped themselves in a debate where they tell the public there is nothing wrong with the system, then enact more criminal laws to change it.”

One of the greatest challenges facing the criminal justice system is the need to balance the rights of accused criminals against society’s interest in imposing punishments on those convicted of crimes. That is one view. An opposite view is the problem of wrongful convictions. A spate of wrongful convictions in Canada has resulted in judges in some jurisdictions being sent on a 3-day course on ‘avoiding wrongful convictions’. Why have these convictions occurred?

Four factors have been identified:

Overconfident eyewitnesses

Bogus prosecution experts

Lying jailhouse informants (who frequently invent confessions)

Overzealous prosecutors or inept lawyers who jeopardize the right to trial of the accused.

An additional factor in wrongful convictions is the tendency, particularly in high profile cases, of the press, police, and publicity-seeking public figures, to convict the accused prior to trial.

As expected, comments on both sides of the debate are plentiful. Some of the critics of Sir John Stevens (head of the Metropolitan Police Service from 2000 until 2005) suggest that social action is the best approach in cutting crime, so that the issue of criminal justice never comes up, since crimes will not be committed. Job creation is an excellent example of that approach. The problem, of course, is that organized and even ‘disorganized’, that is random — crime is not affected by job creation. Gangs terrorizing neighborhoods are not impressed by flower-planting and make-work programs. The issue of the criminal justice system is therefore not addressed. Crimes will still occur and the criminal justice system will still have its problems.

The other view, dealing with wrongful convictions, is equally as serious. When people sit, wrongly convicted, for 15 years, major miscarriages of justice occur.

Another factor influencing the system is public opinion. The courts have a difficult balance to achieve – while the courts should not be controlled by public sentiment, neither should they lose the confidence of the population.

Let us look now at another country, the United States of America. When the former President, Mr. Bush, was Governor of Texas, that State had an incredible record of executions. Yet I didn’t see crime, or more the fear of crime, decrease. The streets of Texas cities are empty even at midday due to concerns with crime. We have seen this situation in Houston and Dallas. You cannot find people out at night walking around. Instead, they live, if they can afford it, in ‘gated communities’. Now it is equally true that Texas has a strong ‘gun culture’. However, no one doubts that hardened criminals in any jurisdiction can obtain the firepower they want.

Equally, liberal approaches to crime, such as that of Mr. Lionel Jospin’s government in France, have resulted in the police unwilling to enter certain neighborhoods and uncontrolled street gangs burning automobiles and Lorries.

Do you notice something interesting with these examples? Whether the criminal justice system is restrictive or permissive, gang violence is rampant since the public order establishment (not just the police) have not addressed the situation by eliminating the gangs. Is that the answer? Would that return order and public confidence?

Should the goal of the criminal justice system be the conviction of the guilty? Or fair trials for all? Or the elimination or reduction of crime? Equally, if fair trials are the goal, and crime still dominates, there will be no public satisfaction or confidence.

Reform of Criminal Justice System:

The Justice for All public service agreement (PSA 24) outlines a program of reforms for reducing crime and re-offending, and providing justice. This section sets out these programs against the main priority areas.

Efficiency and effectiveness

Making the system/process more efficient and effective at bringing offences to justice is a priority for the Criminal Justice System. This section covers the programs aiming to support this goal.

Bichard 7

Business information strategy

Cross-CJS alignment

Exchange links

Postal charging and requisitions

Prisons to Court Video Links


Secure eMail

Virtual Courts

Public confidence:

The Criminal Justice System working effectively requires that people in local communities feel confident that it is fair, effective and meets local needs. This section covers the programs aiming to ensure local communities are informed about its performance, consulted and engaged about their priorities.

Adult Conditional Cautions

Community Engagement with the CJS

Youth Crime Action Plan

Victim and witness satisfaction:

The Criminal Justice System exists to allow victims to seek redress. This section covers the programs aiming to help improve victims’ and witnesses’ satisfaction with the service provided by the CJS.

Victims Pledge

Witness Charter

Race disproportional:

The Criminal Justice System needs to be fair to all regardless of their background or situation. This section covers the programs aiming to help identify and address any unjustified disproportional with regard to race throughout the criminal justice process.

Minimum Data Set

Asset recovery

The Criminal Justice System is concerned with seizing assets acquired by convicted criminals through their activities. This section covers the programs aiming to support the recovery of assets from criminals. Content will be available shortly.

Compliance and enforcement:

Ensuring that offenders and defendants comply with sentences and orders of the Criminal Justice System is integral to delivering an effective and efficient justice system that inspires public confidence and trust. This section covers programs aiming to produce an improved way of measuring compliance and enforcement performance.

Compliance and enforcement measure.



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