Louise Perry

Britain is soft on crime

(Photo: iStock)

I’m not actually a journalist, although I’m often described as such. Along with all the other critics, polemicists, and columnists, I should more accurately be described as a ‘commentator’, since my job is to sit around and opine. 

Real journalists do exist, but they are a dying breed. When newspapers and magazines started to move online at the beginning of this century, it was discovered that the public weren’t very interested in journalism. Outlets realised that it was the commentary that actually attracted clicks, along with porn and funny cat videos, and so the commentators were rewarded while many of the journalists lost their jobs. 

Over the last two decades, even big legacy outlets have ditched their investigative teams and foreign bureaus. In the UK, over 300 local newspaper titles closed between 2009 and 2019, while those that remain are struggling for resources. Alongside foreign news, domestic crime reporting has been worst hit. A House of Commons justice committee report from 2022 warned of a ‘well-documented decline’ in news coverage of the UK courts. In one snapshot study of Bristol Magistrates’ Court in 2018, students sat through 200 cases before they saw their first reporter.

‘Have you ever spent the day in a Magistrates’ Court?’ a (proper) journalist friend asked me recently. I had to confess that I had not, and it has also been many years since I set foot inside a Crown Court, once as a juror and a few times as a Rape Crisis worker. I’ve nevertheless had more exposure to the inner workings of the criminal justice system than the bulk of the public, most of whom will never see the inside of a police station, let alone a prison.  

That’s as it should be. Like many social phenomena, crime seems to conform to the 80/20 rule: that is, 80 per cent of it is committed by only about 20 per cent of the population.

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