Sam Ashworth-Hayes Sam Ashworth-Hayes

Crime is being decriminalised

The core principle of our justice system isn’t public safety

(Photo: iStock)

In February Joshua Carney, a man with 47 previous convictions, was released from prison early on licence. Five days later, he forced his way into a Cardiff house, locking a terrified woman inside. Her screaming woke her 14-year-old daughter upstairs. Carney raped both daughter and mother in front of each other. On Monday, Carney was jailed for ‘life’; he will be considered for parole in ten years, at the age of 38.

The core principle of British justice isn’t public safety. If it was, Carney would never leave prison.

This isn’t about the preservation of liberty; the threat of crime is a far greater constraint on the average person’s freedom than the threat of prison. Instead, the British justice system is based around an almost pathological need to offer offenders a second chance, and a third, and a fourth, even when these chances come at the cost of somebody else’s chance to live their life free of violence. In Carney’s case, the 47 chances he has already received are deemed insufficient; he will have a chance to return to the streets while still young and able-bodied

Less serious offences have effectively been decriminalised entirely

British criminal justice isn’t just. Under-resourced and overworked police forces no longer have the capacity to investigate any but the most serious offences. Overcrowded prisons and soft laws mean that in the event someone is caught, offenders will soon be released from jail to reoffend. In effect, theft, burglary, and other offences are no longer meaningfully crimes; there are no consequences for them.



If you feel like things are getting worse, you’re right. Police forces are now solving the lowest proportion of crimes on record, with just 6 per cent resulting in charges, down from 15.5 per cent six years ago. Rape and sexual offences are at record highs, and police resources aren’t keeping pace; a woman who is raped has a one in 77 chance of seeing her attacker prosecuted.

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