But there’s another issue at stake here: a future Conservative Government will likely inherit a public purse that’s pretty much empty which means Grayling will have responsibility to spend taxpayers’ money in areas that will achieve the most effective reductions in crime.
In his speech, Grayling referred to stopping people getting on to the ‘conveyor belt’ of crime. This goes to the heart of failure of Labour’s crime and justice policy. He also said “tackling the causes of crime was a key part of my last job. If I am Home Secretary after the next election, my job is very simple - to be tough on crime”. Which is of course welcome news – so long as someone at the heart of any future Conservative government is focussed on coordinating the fight to cut crime.
The Government have had their own problems: Ed Balls and Jack Straw have, almost quite literally fought over this area – rowing over which department should be responsible for ‘youth justice’.
If the Conservatives want to see what works they should look to Sweden, Demark, Canada and America. Based on 40 year studies, they have developed programmes which target the factors that can lead young people to a life of crime. And these programmes are cost-effective. Audit Commission figures suggest that each young person in the criminal justice system costs the taxpayer over £200,000 by the age of 16. But one given support to stay out costs less than £50,000. At the moment though, only a tiny 5 per cent of the Youth Justice Board’s budget is for prevention work.
Where crime is concerned, the old adage of an ounce of prevention being better than a pound of cure holds true. Translating the rhetoric into reality will be difficult, but doing so is essential if a Conservative government is to radically reduce the number of victims.
Gavin Lockhart is Head of the Policy Exchange Crime & Justice Unit