70% of convicted offenders are found to be unemployed

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ALMOST 70 per cent of convicted offenders last year were unemployed, probation officers revealed yesterday, as the Government came under Opposition pressure over links between joblessness and rising crime.

Alun Michael, the Labour home affairs spokesman, is to table questions asking Michard Howard, the Home Secretary, to publish the full text of an internal Home Office document extracts from which were carried by the Independent yesterday.

The document, an unused speaking note for Sir Clive Whitmore, the Permanent Secretary, prepared by officials in the crime policy division, says economic policies have led to 'relative deprivation' and a class of young people who have no prospects of a real job.

It says it is difficult to stop unemployed young people offending when society has concentrated on material success as a means of establishing self-esteem, and suggests that the 'the single biggest intervention' to reduce recidivism could be better employment prospects.

Mr Michael accused ministers of hiding their heads in the sand and said some Home Office officials were 'horrified' at the Government's law and order policies. 'I think the Home Secretary is being offered advice based on fact and on experience, but is not willing to face up to the obvious. It is wrong to ignore the fact that conditions of unemployment and poverty cause crime to breed.'

In response to the disclosures, the Association of Chief Officers of Probation released an internal survey of 30 probation areas showing that almost 70 per cent of a sample of 28,000 offenders referred to them for pre-sentence reports between July and December last year were unemployed. Significantly, most of the metropolitan areas, in which unemployment is higher, are excluded. The 28,000 figure represents about one tenth of annual

referrals.

Bill Weston, general secretary of the association, said it was 'absolutely unmistakable' that unemployment featured in offending patterns. 'We would not want to be so crude as to say that unemployment causes crime, but there is no doubt about the association in global terms.' While Ministers publicly denied the importance of social factors, privately they recognised the links, he said.

Jock Young, professor of criminology at Middlesex University, said the Home Office document would be endorsed by most criminologists and was supported by recent research, particularly on burglary. He said it could represent a change of Home Office thinking, which since 1979 had concentrated on crime prevention and 'active citizen' responses, rather than examining root causes.

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