Government urged to get tough on offenders

The Government must get tough on offenders punished outside of prison to restore the faith of victims in the criminal justice system, a senior adviser claimed today.

Victims and Witnesses Commissioner Louise Casey called on ministers to stop letting criminals who fail to undertake work in the community, or repay fines, off the hook.

She said victims want to see offenders punished and rehabilitated whether they are jailed or ordered to pay fines and undertake other reparation for their actions.

Speaking ahead of a speech to the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) today, Mrs Casey said community payback schemes must be tightened up and made five days a week and called for fines to be better enforced.

And she said the Government must overcome its "squeamishness" about publishing information about what happens to criminals when they are prosecuted, to improve confidence in the courts.

Mrs Casey said: "Victims want people punished and they want them rehabilitated. Victims will be the first to say: 'I don't want this to happen to anyone else.'

"We need to get a lot tougher on punishing people properly in the community before they even move on to where they could be locked up.

"Why fine enforcement is so poorly done, I still do not understand. Fines are written off and not paid.

"The tone that should be set throughout the criminal justice system is that the punishment should fit the crime."

Her comments will be read with interest by the coalition Government, which has set out to shake-up the criminal justice system from the police frontline to prisons and rehabilitation.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has signalled a greater emphasis on community service and rehabilitation, instead of short prison sentences, in a bid to cut crime rates and save cash.

Mrs Casey made her name as an outspoken public advocate under former prime minister Tony Blair when she served as an antisocial behaviour "tsar". She took her latest role in March.

The role of Victims Commissioner is a formal appointment laid down in law and follows the work of Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000.

Mrs Casey criticised a "criminal's justice system" that places the rights of lawbreakers above others, saying cases will collapse if victims and witnesses are not willing to come to court.

She suggested failing to shake up the system could fuel vigilantism among disgruntled and angry victims who are asked to "step aside" by the state as it prosecutes on their behalf.

She said: "The idea they are at the heart of the criminal justice system is simply not true, if anything they are the poor relation.

"At virtually every stage of the criminal justice system they remain a sideshow compared to the processing of offender or the interests of justice.

"They are a poor relation when it comes to how money is spent, how services are focused and how 'fairness' in the criminal justice system is pursued."

Mrs Casey also said eight out of 10 victims do not want to be contacted with offers of support and called on the Government to focus on the small proportion of serious cases.

Mrs Casey said: "Leaving aside the issue of money, I am not sure every single victim of crime wants to be contacted.

"If someone has their lawnmower stolen, do they need three letters from Victim Support at a time when we are struggling to counsel abused children?"

Mrs Casey added sentencing policy remains opaque and called for better information about appeals and parole hearings.

She said the complaints system for victims who do not feel they have been treated well is "woefully inadequate if not totally invisible".

Mrs Casey said 58 complaints have been made in the past four years, compared to more than 4,500 to the prison and probation ombudsman in the last year.

Justice Minister Nick Herbert said: "I welcome this report and I agree with a great deal of what Louise Casey says.

"Offenders need to know that their actions have consequences, and we need a criminal justice service which never stops thinking about the interests of victims.

"It is unacceptable when fines are unpaid or that nearly half of community sentences are never completed.

"The Government is determined to reform criminal justice, not by ineffective authoritarianism, hollow 'get tough' promises, higher spending or more central control, but through radical reform of policing, probation and prisons, using innovative policies such as payment by results to drive value for money and demand greater accountability for performance."

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition