Criminal Justice in Europe: A Comparative Study

By Phil Fennell; Christopher Harding et al. | Go to book overview

2
The Evolution of Criminal Justice Policy in the UK

GAVIN S. DINGWALL AND ALAN DAVENPORT


CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICY AS A RESPONSE TO PENAL CRISIS

The United Kingdom today faces a problem of crime which could not possibly have been forecast at the end of the Second World War. Since then there has been a large increase in the number of crimes reported to the police. In 1950 approximately 500,000 crimes were reported. This figure rose to 1.6 million in 1970, 2.5 million in 1980 and 5.4 million in 1991.1 In Table 2.1 the figures for 1992 reveal that the vast majority of crimes reported to the police are property offences. Of the 5 per cent of offences listed as being of a sexual or violent nature, roughly two-thirds involved minor wounding; homicide and serious wounding constituted only 0.3 per cent of recorded crime.2 The criminal statistics show that the largest recent rises in reported crime have been for criminal damage and burglary.3

Such a rise in reported crime is clearly cause for concern; however, victim report surveys would suggest that criminal behaviour is more prevalent than the official statistics indicate. The British Crime Survey interviews a large sample across the United Kingdom in an attempt to gauge the true extent of crime. The latest survey suggests that in 1991 about fifteen million offences were actually committed.4 Vandalism and theft from motor vehicles accounted for the majority of unreported crime according to the survey's results. The most common reason for not reporting an offence to the police was that the victim felt that it was too trivial to merit action, followed by the fact that the victim did not feel that the police would be in a position to do anything about the offence.

It is impossible to state to what extent this rise in reported crime represents an increase in actual crime. Studies in the United States have tentatively suggested that a rise in reported crime is roughly proportionate

____________________
1
Criminal Statistics, England and Wales, 1970, 1980, 1992, HMSO. The 1992 figures are taken from "'Notifiable Offences 1992'", Home Office Statistical Bulletin, 1993.
2
"'Notifiable Offences 1992'".
3
Criminal Statistics, England and Wales, HMSO, 1992.
4
P. Mayhew and N. Aye Maung, Surveying Crime. Findings from the 1992 British Crime Survey, Home Office Research Findings, No. 2.

-21-

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