Not Saussure

November 25, 2006

How to be tough on a cause of crime

Filed under: Law, UK — notsaussure @ 11:50 am

A bit late with this, but à propos the suggestion from Howard Roberts, Deputy Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire, that addicts should be given heroin to curb crime, the judges at my nearest crown court — which sits in a county town in the Midlands, not some inner city — reckon that between fifty and sixty per cent of their courts’ work is in some way drugs related.

Some, obviously, is directly related, in that it’s to do with the possession or supply of drugs. The vast majority of that work, though, is dealing with crime committed to fund drugs habits, typically domestic burglary to fund heroin addiction. I don’t know what the equivalent figure for the magistrates’ courts is like, but since most addicts are serial shoplifters if they aren’t serial burglars, it must be pretty similar.

The recently-published Home Office research paper Measuring different aspects of problem drug use: methodological developments provides the following table showing a summary of estimates of criminal justice costs and victim costs of [drugs related] crime in 2003/04 (table 3.3, p 44); the CJS costs give some indication of the prevalence of each type of drugs related crime.

CJS Costs(£ millions) Victim Costs (£ millions)
Fraud £877 £3,898
Burglary £1,419 £2,651
Robbery £822 £1,585
Shoplifting £383 £1,533
Drug Arrests £535 n/a

I can’t offhand find a figure for the total CJS Costs for that year, but as an indication of the size of the problem, the total CJS costs for dealing with all robberies in England and Wales in 2003/4 was £870 million (so drugs must have been involved in around 90% of them, which I find astonishing) and and the total cost to the CJS of dealing with all domestic burglaries was £1,001 million. (The economic and social costs of crime against individuals and households 2003/04 (table 4.1, p 15).

I also note that, of the 79,800 inmates currently stretching the prison service in England and Wales to bursting point, some 39,000 — that is, just under half — are estimated by the prison service to be drug users. Obviously not all of them are going to be there because of their drug problems, but a fair old number must be.

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