Criminal conundrum spawns retribution

April 21, 1995

Government rhetoric about crime prevention has not been matched by action, but there has been an impact at local level.

Adam Edwards, research officer at the centre for the study of public order at Leicester University, said that Home Secretary Michael Howard's return to a more retributive style of law and order rhetoric merely reflects the reality of Government policy.

"About Pounds 250 million is spent each year on crime prevention measures, but that stayed much the same for the last seven or eight years. And it compares to about Pounds 6.5 billion spent on the criminal justice system - an amount which has doubled since the early 1980s."

But he told a politics of law and order session at the conference that local authorities had taken up the challenge to develop crime prevention programmes and partnerships. "We are seeing local authorities prepared to look for ways in which they can coordinate better housing, social services or other means by which the likelihood of crime can be reduced."

Mr Edwards, who is working on the Economic and Social Research Council's local governance programme, argues that increasing emphasis on crime prevention by Government from the late 1980s was a response to the failure of earlier views of crime.

"In the postwar period there was one view that argued that crime was a result of social deprivation while another saw it as a matter of free will," he said.

He said that deprivation theory was discredited as crime rose along with living standards from the 1950s, while the retributionist outlook implicit in the free will theory was seen to fail as crime continued to rise in the early years of Thatcherism.

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