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The UK’s justice system is in crisis. There are issues at every level – from police paperwork to processing crimes to bursting prisons. Now, yet another problem has come to the fore. Figures released concerning the number of crimes dealt with via community resolutions have proven to be shocking, as they show that over 10,000 serious crimes have been ‘solved’ with a community resolution.
You might not think that this is such a bad thing, but when you look at what a ‘serious’ crime entails it is cause for deep concern: GBH, both with and without intent, assault causing actual bodily harm, and use of substance or object to endanger life, as well as over 2000 cases of domestic violence in 2012 being dealt with by a community resolution. We could potentially have previous knife users and domestic abusers walking our streets, with no way of knowing about their past offence. Community resolutions are quite literally a ‘get out of jail’ card as they do not lead to prosecutions, cautions, or even a criminal record.
Community resolutions may work for minor offences, but for serious crimes, it surely encourages reoffending and letting people off lightly. In order to obtain a community resolution, the offender has to show guilt about their crime. How on earth can this be proven? Surely if an offender knows that community resolutions help them to avoid a criminal record, they could quite easily feign guilt about their crime in order to achieve this if they do not feel guilty. It’s certainly a worrying thought that potentially dangerous people could escape true punishment merely by showing guilt, which cannot be proven.
It’s simply an easy option to give offenders the possibility of a community resolution. In an age where the amount of police paperwork has been heavily criticised, you can’t blame officers for wanting a crime to be dealt with quickly and with minimal fuss. All parties concerned have to agree to this, but the fact that officers are, quite frankly, being encouraged to relieve the burden on prisons, community resolutions are an efficient way of doing this. It could have a detrimental effect on our justice system. Serious crimes have to be dealt with in a way proportionate to the crime, and community resolutions aren’t doing that.
Amidst all this furore at the crime level though, it’s easy for us to miss the bigger picture concerning our justice system. Police are being encouraged to reduce the burden on prisons, but the issue of prisons being full in the first place is because of prison life being too comfortable and better than living on the streets. I’m not saying that offenders should be treated cruelly because prison is about rehabilitation too, but surely freely allowing the luxury of, for example, a television when offenders first enter prison cannot be justified. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has caught on to the problem, recently announcing plans to impose difficulties in accessing luxuries such as televisions, and only allowing them once offenders have shown good behaviour. This is the first step to improving our justice system, but only the first step on a very long journey.
It’s difficult to solve the issue of using community resolutions for serious crimes when it is the top of the system causing problems for everyone else. We need, however, to feel safe in the knowledge that past serious offenders are not walking the streets free from a criminal record. With knife crimes particularly affecting young people, students such as ourselves should have the right to feel secure and know that all knife crimes, regardless of their severity, have been thoroughly dealt with – community resolutions consisting of an apology cannot be enough. Don’t get me wrong; community resolutions are a great idea, but only when proportionate to the crime. Serious crimes have to be processed, and maybe we should only consider community resolutions in conjunction with prosecutions and cautions.