Public 'must know offenders fate'

 

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The public should be given detailed information on what happens to offenders following specific crimes on their street, the Policing and Criminal Justice Minister said today.

Nick Herbert said developments on the crime-mapping website police.uk, which show how many criminals have been jailed following offences, were just the first step to greater transparency.

But the public will want to know more and they are entitled to be given the details, he said.

Technical issues and concerns over privacy, human rights issues, the identification of victims, and the scope of information provided will all have to be addressed as the website, which has had 47 million visits in almost 18 months, develops, he added.

His comments came as figures showed only one in six crimes recorded by police on the site resulted in court action.

Some 84% were dealt with by police, either through a caution or some form of restorative justice, the data showed.

Mr Herbert said: "The public demand will be, 'We want to know more specifically what happened, not just that there was a prison sentence, but what'. Or that they may wish to know who the offender was.

"We will have to address each of those and say firstly, what is technically possible, and secondly, what is the right amount of information to provide.

"There should be transparency, there should be open justice, unless there are compelling reasons not to."

He added: "People don't just want to know that crimes have been committed in their street. They also want to know what happened. I think people are entitled to this information."

The latest developments on the website come after Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to Cabinet ministers last July, telling them that from this month it would "provide the public with information on what happens next for crime occurring on their streets".

Mr Herbert said the move was a "huge step forward in the Government's agenda for transparency".

It gives the public "the information that enables them to hold the criminal justice system to account, information which is or ought to be publicly available but being delivered in a far more accessible way for the first time".

But the details on the national site are far more general than a trial scheme in West Yorkshire where the "offenders are named and the specific information relating to their sentence is provided in a more detailed form".

"I think the direction of travel, as West Yorkshire is showing, is the provision of more specific information," Mr Herbert said.

"What it shows is what is possible and the challenge in the future will be to link that up with a national site.

"There is no legal issue in principle, because we have open justice in this country.

"Firstly, there are the technical issues. It is a huge achievement to get to this stage given that we have IT systems that do not talk to each other.

"Secondly, we have to make sure that along the way we have got the balance right between privacy and openness."

The new data, which show police actions following crimes from last month onwards and any court outcomes from January, vary widely from force to force across England and Wales.

On average, two-thirds (67%) of all crimes recorded between January and April this year, for which a suspect has been charged, have been successfully matched against court records.

But this falls to just 8% in Gwent and 10% in Leicestershire, and rises to 95% in both South Wales and Devon and Cornwall, and 94% in Surrey.

The match rate in Britain's biggest force, the Metropolitan Police, was 72%.

A successful match relies on the ability of the force IT system to generate the data, officials said.

The police action which accounted for 84% of outcomes also includes any fixed-penalty notices and cases where no further action is required, the Home Office said.