Bring the outs in

The liberals will no longer stay silent. Jack O' Sullivan reports on a conference that challenges the hardliners

As Michael Howard and Jack Straw compete to sound the most punitive, this might seem an ill-chosen moment for liberal reformers to clear their throats. Better, one might think, to stay silent, and hope that Mr Straw will calm down after 1 May, when, if he takes the helm at Queen Anne's Gate, he might begin to shed his macho image. But at a major one-day conference tomorrow on "The Criminal Justice System: Designing the Future", leading thinkers opposing today's "lock 'em up and throw away the key" approach will point a different way.

"We will be challenging the all-powerful legal system which thinks that it is the only legitimate way to deal with crime," says Charmian Bollinger, a clinical and forensic psychologist, the conference chair. "These days we understand so much more about how people are motivated, think and feel, we should be redesigning the criminal justice system in a way that reflects that knowledge." So the most important action the system could take against an offender might be, for example, to find him or her a job. "I have found in dealings with some violent men, that their problem is sexual impotence, which undermines their self-esteem. Therapy has solved the problem."

Ms Bollinger has powerful allies in thinking afresh about the value of old-fashioned punitive justice. Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, chair of Victim Support, will argue that the present approach often fails even in its narrow tasks of catching criminals and discerning the truth about particular criminal events. Barbara Hudson, reader in criminology at Northumbria University, will warn against punishing people for offences they have not even committed (local publication of the names of convicted paedophiles or burglars might, for example, fit that category). Estela Welldon, consultant psychiatrist at the Portman Clinic, argues in favour of psychoanalytic methods in helping offenders to understand their responsibilities to others. Punishment, she contends is often of little value to people who may already been severely punished in their lives.

Charles Pollard, Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, will warn against following the United States model of mass incarceration. He has helped pioneer alternatives to criminal proceedings. For example, the "caution plus" system brings young offenders and their parents to police stations and encourages discussions about crime including meetings with victims, so that an offender can understand the effects of his actions. The scheme has reduced recidivism.

But the key speaker at the conference, at Wolfson College, Oxford, will be David Faulkner, who, as a senior Home Office civil servant, was the architect of the 1991 Criminal Justice Act. As both a thinker and a civil servant, his work confounds popular suspicion that the Home Office has long been stuffed with anti-liberal hardliners. The 1991 legislation dramatically shrank the prison population before the backlash led by Michael Howard raised it to the present record levels. The 1991 Act required judges to jail an individual only if the offence was so serious that no other option would suffice. Its short-lived spirit resulted in the judiciary thinking imaginatively about alternatives to imprisonment.

Mr Faulkner, now a Fellow of St John's College, Oxford, says reform of the criminal justice system should be based on evidence of what works rather than what appeals to Sun readers. He contrasts the past few years with the 1980s which were, he says, "a period in which there was, by and large, a serious attempt to construct policies towards crime and criminal justice within a framework of evidence and principle".

The 1990s, he says, have been characterised by an "exclusive" view of society, which distinguishes between the "deserving majority", which needs to be protected from the "undeserving, feckless minority", who must be excluded and in many cases incarcerated. A reformed and effective justice system would, he says, reflect an "inclusive" notion of society. "It recognises the capacity and will of individuals to change, to improve if they are given guidance, help and encouragement; to be damaged if they are abused or humiliated."

Mr Faulkner sees an ideological battle taking place between the exclusionists, who dominate the present parliament's programme of criminal punishment, demonisation of children, hostility to single parents and refugees, and inclusionists who are talking increasingly of citizenship and civic responsibility. It is too early, he says, to know which approach will triumph.

"A move to a more inclusive approach could be linked to a New Labour programme or even to a One Nation Conservative programme. At the moment, there is not much inclusive language in what Jack Straw says, although you can hear it in his talk of supporting families and early intervention when things start to go wrong"

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
film
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Goalkeeping howler allows Man City to scrap a draw – but Premier League title is Liverpool's to lose
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Consultant – Building Management

up to £45,000 + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Green ...

Senior Industrial Energy Consultant

Up to £45,000 + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Green ...

Mechanical Building Services Energy Engineer

up to £45K basic + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Gr...

Building Services Energy Engineer

up to £45K basic + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Gr...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal