Leading article: Good advice

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The Independent Online

Professor Ian Loader's letter to Tony Blair is a devastating critique of the Government's entire approach to crime. And the fact that Professor Loader, director of the Oxford Centre for Criminology, was directly recruited to advise the Prime Minister on the subject makes it doubly damaging.

Professor Loader's letter is measured, polite and yet utterly crushing in its criticism of Mr Blair: "You seem to take the view that the role of government is to act as an uncritical cipher for public anger and demands." And then: "It often sounds as if you think the criminal justice system is a delivery arm of government." Indeed. Anyone who has paid attention to Mr Blair's many public pronouncements on crime and antisocial behaviour will recognise this characterisation. Also resonant is Professor Loader's observation that: "You run the risk of raising public expectations in what the criminal justice can deliver." We have a hysterical public discourse on crime, largely thanks to the rhetoric coming out of Downing Street and the Home Office.

There have been over 40 Criminal Justice Bills since 1997. But, as Professor Loader remarks, producing ever more laws "is like putting a plaster on a broken leg". Whatever happened to the Labour leader who promised to be "tough on the causes of crime"?

Now that even one of his personal advisers has criticised his approach, will the Prime Minister listen? Mr Blair is due to deliver a speech on crime today. Early indications are that he will pledge, once again, to "rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of victims". Depressingly, it seems we will have to put up with such populist nonsense for some time yet.

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