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Blair to launch overhaul of criminal justice

· Initiative aims to restore confidence in system
· 'I just wish he'd shut up' says former watchdog

Alan Travis, home affairs editor
Friday June 16, 2006
The Guardian

Tony Blair is to unveil a fundamental overhaul of the criminal justice system next week to safeguard the civil liberties of victims at the expense of offenders. The initiative is designed to restore public confidence in the ability of the courts and the police to tackle crime after a torrid few weeks.


But the promise of further action to "rebalance the criminal justice system" angered a former chief inspector of prisons yesterday, while senior legal figures warned of the dangers of abolishing the sentence discount for those who plead guilty soon after they are arrested.


The former chief inspector of prisons, Lord Ramsbotham, said a period of silence on Mr Blair's part was required when it came to crime and prisons: "I just wish he'd shut up, frankly. One of the problems that there has been recently is announcement after announcement from the prime minister that he's going to do this and that and the other, and more people are going to come in for longer," he told the BBC.

"Unfortunately, all that's doing is crowding the system even more than it is. That doesn't just apply to the Prison Service; it also applies to the probation service," he said, adding it was no use blaming an overwhelmed and under-resourced probation service for not doing what it should.

The prime minister is expected to announce a major drive to ensure that human rights legislation is not used to jeopardise public safety, including possibly new legislation and the appointment of legally qualified "public protection advocates" in the police and the courts to counter the activities of human rights defence lawyers.

It is expected that Mr Blair will go far wider in his crime speech than simply promising legislation and further administrative action to end this week's sentencing row. Changes are already expected in the way the parole board goes about making release decisions for serious offenders and the guidelines which allow courts to give a discount of up to one third on the sentences of offenders who make an early plea of guilty.

The lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, yesterday insisted it was the legal system rather than the judges that was at fault, and also promised to take a detailed look at the way the new sentencing framework introduced under the 2003 Criminal Justice Act was operating. The five-year minimum tariff set for the convicted paedophile Craig Sweeney, whose case sparked this week's sentencing row, was calculated under rules set out for discretionary life sentences that date back to 1967 but were confirmed in the 2003 act.

The number of prisoners in England and Wales reached 77,642 last week, just 158 short of a new record high. Phil Wheatley, director general of the Prison Service, has warned it takes three years to build a new prison and he was just managing within a planned capacity of 80,000.

Kevin Martin, Law Society president, also warned yesterday that ministers should not rush to abolish the one-third discount for early guilty pleas after Lord Falconer confirmed it needed urgent attention. He said these promoted desirable aims in the criminal justice system. "These include avoiding victims of crime having to give evidence unnecessarily, minimising 'cracked trials' because the defendant pleads guilty on the morning of trial, and avoiding delays in cases."

The 2003 act: Falconer's concerns

At the heart of this week's controversy over sentencing has been the 2003 Criminal Justice Act. Lord Falconer said he would take a detailed look at some of its main points. They include:

Early release

Prisoners serving 12 months or more do 50% in custody and 50% on licence in the community and can be recalled to prison if they breach conditions. This replaced a system under which prisoners were released after 75% of their sentence without conditions or supervision.

Dangerous offenders

A new breed of indefinite sentences without a fixed final release date is now used for sexual and violent offenders assessed as posing a danger to the public. Those who have committed offences which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years or more may face either a discretionary life sentence or, if they are less serious, an indeterminate public protection sentence. In both cases the judge will set a minimum period after which the prisoner will be released only if the parole board decides he or she no longer poses a risk to the public.

Mandatory life sentences

These remain the ultimate sanction imposed for murder, but now the judges rather than the home secretary set the tariff - the minimum period that must be served before eligibility for parole. The 2003 act sets out starting points for the tariff, ranging from whole life, 30 years and 15 years, with the minimum term set depending on aggravating or mitigating factors. A mandatory lifer may have his or her first parole hearing three years before the expiry of the tariff but this usually only decides whether the prisoner should be moved to an open prison. The parole board decides on further applications and all mandatory lifers who are released are on a life licence and subject to recall.




16.06.2006: Steve Bell on the criminal justice debate.



Oh and er, click the link for some light bedtime reading;



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Reply with quote  #2 

"· I just wish he'd shut up' says former watchdog"


Former obnoxious pain in the arse Bilkster agrees wholeheartedly! Bilko

Law and justice are not always the same. When they aren't, destroying the law may be the first step toward changing it. :D

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Originally Posted by Magpie

Tony Blair is to unveil a fundamental overhaul of the criminal justice system next week to safeguard the civil liberties of victims at the expense of offenders. The initiative is designed to restore public confidence in the ability of the courts and the police to tackle crime after a torrid few weeks.




Hi Magpie...thanks for your excellent post with regards to 'Criminal Justice System', and the article which reveals that Tony Blair (in his wisdom) is to 'launch overhaul of criminal justice'.  Thank you also for the link included within your post.


Having read through the post, I included the above extract which featured in the article, as I find it rather amusing, albeit a little tragic that Mr Blair is conducting this overhaul to safeguard the civil liberties of victims at the expense of offenders, and that this initiative is to restore public confidence in the ability of the courts and  the police.


May I point out that it is because of the courts and the police that the public have little, or no, confidence in these systems, due to the amount of innocent people who are victims of this very same system, and that if Mr Blair was instead to overhaul the aforementioned system and acknowledge the many problems that exist within it (corruption etc), then the public might just start getting their confidence in the system back, once the REAL offenders have been dealt with.


With regards to Bilko's post, and the subsequent quote, "I just wish he'd shut up", well, my sentiments exactly.

I'd rather be hated for what I am, than loved for what I am not".

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Reply with quote  #4 

Originally Posted by Admin

May I point out that it is because of the courts and the police that the public have little, or no, confidence in these systems, due to the amount of innocent people who are victims of this very same system, and that if Mr Blair was instead to overhaul the aforementioned system and acknowledge the many problems that exist within it (corruption etc), then the public might just start getting their confidence in the system back, once the REAL offenders have been dealt with.


You got it, Admin.  





The Police Service is the front door to the Criminal Justice System yet victims of crime rarely get past it and when they do, fall at the next hurdle [CPS].


For those innocent individuals where the Police decide they're guilty of a crime, regardless of the evidence , the Police kick in the front door, and if really mad may SHOOT YOU aswell!!


T. Blair should start a mass overhaul of the Police Service as a start!!


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Reply with quote  #5 

Hi Magpie... thanks for your post with regards to 'Criminal Justice System'.


I think you're bang on (no pun intended) when you say that regardless of what evidence the police have - and even if they have none, they can always make some appear - and that there are many innocent victims who have suffered at the hands of the very same system that Tony Blair seems intent on protecting.


A complete overhaul of the police force should be the starting point in protecting the civil liberties of victims of offenders - innocent people who are victims of a system that is there is to protect them, but instead, end up being wrongfully convicted, and as recent cases have shown, shot for no apparent reason at all.


Once the public start to see changes in the system, then, and only then, the trust might be put back into a system that is, without question, CORRUPT.



I'd rather be hated for what I am, than loved for what I am not".

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These are the government departments responsible for reducing and preventing crime.


They are currently reforming the criminal justice system to put the concerns of victims of crime at the heart of the work they do.


In this section you'll get a picture of crime in the UK, information on how they are tackling it and how you can help prevent crime.


They also provide information on the help and support that they are offering victims of crime.


Home Office links:


Explore this section:

  • Victims of crime

    Find out how to report a crime, and get help and support if you’ve been a victim of crime

  • How we're reducing crime

    We’re working hard to reduce all types of crime, from alcohol and drug-related crime, to domestic violence and hate crime

  • How you can prevent crime

    Not all crime is preventable, but there are things you can do to protect yourself. Read our tips now

  • Worried about crime?

    Concerned about your safety? Find out what we're doing to help

  • Crime statistics

    Have crime levels worsened or improved? Find out how prevalent crime is in your area, plus an explanation of how we measure crime

This & That

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Reply with quote  #7 
The Sunday TimesJune 18, 2006


Lenient judges: guilty as charged?


Judges deny it is their fault that life sentences of as little as 15 months make a mockery of justice. So whose fault is it? Stuart Wavell investigates

Last week the public rubbed its eyes in disbelief when it seemed that our criminal justice system had been turned on its head in the style of Alice in Wonderland. Like Lewis Carroll’s characters the Queen’s law officers squabbled with each other, and Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, popped up to admit that the rules were too bizarre for even judges to understand.

The furore over lenient sentencing exploded in a steady crackle of headlines. Craig Sweeney, a paedophile, was rewarded with a mere five-year prison tariff partly for pleading guilty after being caught red-handed at the end of a high-speed car chase in the act of abducting a three-year-old girl. This and other cases exposed a dismaying system of discounts and get-out-of-jail-quick credits in our courts.

Then details were slipped out to MPs that 53 criminals sentenced to “life” in jail since 2000 had been released after serving fewer than six years. In one case “life” had meant actually serving 15 months. The revelations brought increased pressure on John Reid, the embattled home secretary, whose call for Sweeney’s sentence to be reviewed met a put-down by Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, who huffed that he would not be swayed by political pressure.

Tony Blair’s promise of radical reforms has not stilled a chorus of “off with their heads”. But whose heads? The “soft” judges, accused of being aloof and out of touch with the public’s commonsense view of right and wrong? Or the government, which has added 54 new laws to the legal maze and is so intent on easing overcrowding in jails that hardened criminals can serve only a fraction of their sentences?

Stuart Fish has been characterised by the media as Britain’s most lenient judge after topping the attorney-general’s list of more than 200 judges who have given “unduly lenient” sentences to criminals guilty of sex offences and other serious crimes in the past three years. Have he and his colleagues lost the plot?

“I don’t think we’re out of touch,” says Fish, a circuit judge whose retirement in December allows him to respond. “The vast majority of judges are men and women who have spouses and children. We’ve all been in practice, either at the bar or as solicitors, and in that capacity we have more experience of criminal behaviour than many members of the public.”

He suggests that if the public does not want an independent judiciary, it should elect judges. But public opinion is not what it seems, in his view: “The public think they want all sorts of desperate things to happen, but when it actually comes to it, they don’t.” He cites a recent experiment in which two groups of people were asked their opinion on a sentence. Those who were given all the judge’s papers thought it too severe, while those relying on media reports pronounced it too lenient.

Yet Fish unapologetically takes issue with the belief held by victims’ families and many members of the public that prison works as a deterrent when an offence is being planned or committed. “The vast majority of people who commit criminal offences don’t run their lives on a risk assessment basis. They don’t expect to get caught. But if they do get caught, the consequences are so far removed from the act itself that it doesn’t impact on them.” Only after two or three spells in jail might they conclude that the odds are unfavourable and the deterrent effect comes into force, he says.

A common criticism of judges is that they err on the side of leniency to avoid the humiliation of their judgments being overturned by the appeal court. “The Court of Appeal can sometimes be rather critical in its comments,” Fish concedes. “But we try to do what we think is right for all parties involved. If prison can be avoided, then in any community penalty there should be an element of punishment, an element of restraint and an element of correction. The offender can be recalled to court and sentenced afresh.”

What explains Fish’s record? He points out that of the 339 cases of undue leniency on Goldsmith’s list, 10 were his, of which four were left unchanged. In the same period, the appeal court received about 16,000 applications to challenge sentences; of the 6,500 appeals heard, 4,000 were granted, some against sentences imposed by him: “So in the period when people are complaining about some 210 lenient sentences, 4,000 were found to be too severe. Either that, or the Court of Appeal went soft. It depends which way you look at it.”

He claims that judges “don’t pay any attention to the way the wind is blowing in government”. Yet he admits that some of his decisions have been influenced by the overcrowded state of prisons, partly a consequence of the government’s reluctance to build any more: “In those overcrowded circumstances it’s not possible to work with prisoners as many prison officers would want.”

How much discretion do judges really have? Fish says that the welter of prescriptive legislation has left him with the feeling “that we are not very far from the situation where we will feed all the reports and facts into a computer, which will give you the result. I would ask them to leave things alone”.

David Thomas QC, who wrote the “bible” on sentencing, Current Sentencing Practice, says judges have a great deal of latitude: “But it’s constrained by legislation, case law and sentencing from the Sentencing Guidelines Council. The judge has to get them all into focus. He knows that if they go too low there might be a risk that the attorney-general will try to refer it. If he goes too high the defendant will try to appeal against it.”

Much of the current anger and confusion stem from the courts’ misleading language. To many people, “life” suggests perhaps 20 years in prison, not six years or fewer. In fact the word refers to being monitored on licence for life — more an aspiration than reality — and not the actual minimum prison term, known as the tariff.

The use of this misnomer is symptomatic of government spin, according to David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, whose parliamentary questions disclosed the early release of 53 “lifers”. He is forming a group called Stop All Forms of Early Release to campaign for “honest” sentencing that means what it says.

“It’s my feeling that for financial reasons the government doesn’t want to put people in prison,” he says. “They are deliberately trying to deceive the public into thinking that people are serving long sentences when in actual fact they’re not. A life sentence looks good, and then they’ll quietly ensure they’re let out by a parole board a couple of years later. It means they don’t have to build more prisons.”

However, the sense of betrayal experienced by victims’ families at judges’ leniency is not new. Last week David Hines was dreading the possible release of the man who had killed his daughter. Marie Hines was 23 when Tony Davison, her former boyfriend, strangled her while on bail in 1992.

It seemed a clear-cut case that would result in a severe sentence. Davison had gone to a police station and admitted the offence, but then entered not guilty pleas until the trial, when he pleaded guilty. This earned him a reduced “life” sentence of 14 years until he was eligible for parole last week.

“I was livid,” says Hines, founder of the North of England Victims Association. “I had reports from the pathologist and the coroner that showed he’d sexually assaulted Marie when she was dead. That in itself should have carried another life sentence. It was a horrific sexual assault on a dead person. For the life of me I cannot understand why he wasn’t prosecuted with the full power of the law. I’ve just been told he won’t be getting out, so that’s good news.”

Most of the 53 released “lifers” were jailed under the controversial “two strikes means life” policy, in which offenders convicted of a second serious or violent offence were given automatic life sentences under laws introduced by the Conservative party and implemented by Labour in 1997.

“It forced courts to pass life sentences in cases where they wouldn’t have dreamt of doing so,” says Thomas. He recalls the case of an “incompetent and daft” second offender who robbed a shop at the point of a banana, concealed in a bag. “After the robbery, he got on his motorbike and collided with the police car that was answering a 999 call.” He became a lifer.

That legislation has been replaced by the Criminal Justice Act of 2003, which introduced indeterminate sentences for offenders considered dangerous and posing a significant risk to the public. These are similar to “life” sentences for murder, rape, manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm with intent. Although the judge does not fix a release date, the offender will still be eligible for parole after a set period.

To work this out the judge tots up the tariff according to formulas that have outraged critics. The first allows prisoners to be automatically released after serving half their sentence.

Another allows sentences to be cut by a third if a defendant pleads guilty. This was intended as a reward for not putting witnesses, especially victims, through the ordeal of giving evidence in court and for saving court time. But many argue that it should not apply to the likes of Sweeney, who had little option but to plead guilty.

Sweeney’s tariff was calculated on the basis of an 18-year sentence. His guilty plea reduced it by a third to 12 years; this was automatically halved to six years. Taking into account time spent on remand, Sweeney could be released in just over five years.

According to Norman Brennan, a serving police officer and founder of Victims of Crime Trust, these early releases send out the wrong message to a public that has lost confidence in British justice. “We are witnessing the breakdown of law and order in this country,” he says. “Everybody blames everyone else. As police we often have to go and apologise to the families of victims at the Old Bailey.”

A five-year “life” sentence, amounting to one-sixteenth of an average man’s life expectancy, makes a “mockery” of the law, he complains: “Judges bend over backwards to avoid sending people to prison. They receive directives saying there are too many people locked up.”

He recalls a very different picture when he joined the police 27 years ago: “Everyone reported robbery then because the Old Bill was on the beat and judges sent every robber to Borstal or prison. There were no exceptions. The sentencing has gone down, robberies have increased and everyone has failed in their care of duty.”

The courts gave few discount vouchers to villains. The Great Train Robbers, who stole £2.3m in 1963, received sentences of up to 30 years each. So did the East End gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray. Ronnie died in Broadmoor after serving 26 years; Reggie followed him in 2000 after 31 years behind bars.

Brennan fears that the damaged compact between the public and the courts, which once ensured that crimes would be punished, will result in vigilantism. “If the public take the law into their own hands, it will be the law of the jungle,” he says.


The government has promised a radical overhaul of the criminal justice system before parliament’s summer recess and a bill will be brought to the Commons in November. Ideas under consideration include:

  • Scrapping the automatic one-third off sentences for guilty pleas. This right caused outrage in the case of Craig Sweeney, the paedophile caught red-handed while abducting a three-year-old girl. It was one factor in reducing his minimum sentence to five years.
  • Unanimous decisions by parole boards, which have the final say on whether a criminal no longer poses a risk to the public and can be released.
  • Revision of the automatic release of prisoners halfway through their sentence. This replaced a system under which prisoners were released three-quarters of the way through their sentence without conditions or supervision.
  • Greater discretion for judges, including the right to spell out the minimum and maximum jail term an offender would serve.
  • Tony Blair will outline plans for legal changes in a speech this week, despite a plea to “shut up” by Lord Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons, who fears Blair’s promises will lead to further prison overcrowding.
  • hammer6

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    Reply with quote  #8 

    Trials & Errors

    As of today there are 162 cases alleging miscarriages of justice on the

    books of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.


    Some may be guilty and are trying work the system in their bid for freedom.


    But others are innocent people languishing behind bars - and that is a serious

    indictment of the Scottish police and our courts.


    Derek Ogg QC, a leading defence lawyer, is clear about why the innocent are

    being sent to prison.


    Our justice system, under-funded and under pressure, is weighted

    towards miscarriages.


    It is in the culture of our police and our courts.


    Ogg can speak without fear of contradiction; he has years of experience

    fighting some of the hardest cases to come to trial.


    "The main problem is targeting by police.


    They don't have enough officers so when they arrive at a crime scene,

    the first thing they do is look at their books and see who has form for

    a similar offence.


    They then make the evidence of the crime scene fit their suspect, rather

    than finding suspects from evidence at the crime scene.


    "If they get statements from witnesses that don't point towards their suspect,

    they often don't send these to the Procurator Fiscal.


    So when the fiscal prepares the case, they've no idea there are people out

    there who contradict the case being built against the accused.


    "Then we have legal aid. The legal aid board boasts about cutting its budget but

    what that means is defence lawyers like me can't afford to find experts to

    re-examine evidence.


    We can't get independent pathology or forensic reports. And I've had cases

    where clients would have gone to jail if I hadn't been able to find

    independent experts.


    "The prosecution is also supposed to disclose everything they know about a case

    to the defence.


    Most do, but take it from me, there are some who don't.


    And that can mean that evidence which proves a person didn't carry out a

    crime is never heard in court.


    If that happens you have an innocent person going to jail.


    "It was always the first tenet of Scots law that it was better nine guilty men

    walked free than one innocent one go to jail.


    That has changed.


    If we want a society that is just we have to face up to the failings in our

    system and change them.


    The bottom line is that the police have to start doing their job properly,

    so we can all sleep in our beds peacefully without thinking that we've put

    innocent people behind bars and the real criminals are still out there."

    The TRUTH is out there...........

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    Reply with quote  #9 

    Powers of Seizure and Re-Seizure of Money under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002


    QBD (Admin) (Mitting J) 1/3/2006


    Forfeiture: Powers Of Seizure: Return Of Property: Time Limits: Forfeiture Of Seized

    Cash: Power To Re-Seize: Proceeds Of Crime Act 2002: S.19 Police And Criminal

    Evidence Act 1984: S.294 Proceeds Of Crime Act 2002: S.298 Proceeds Of Crime Act

    2002: Police And Criminal Evidence Act 1984


    Money seized under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 could be re-seized under

    the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 provided that the sum of money re-seized amounted to no

    less than the legal minimum at the time of the re-seizure.

    The appellant chief constable appealed against a judge’s determination that the money

    seized from the respondents (H) was not lawfully seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act

    2002. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 s.19, the police had seized a

    quantity of cannabis and cheques made out in H’s favour to the sum of £6,756 during a

    search of H’s home. At the relevant time the statutory minimum for the seizure of money

    under the 2002 Act was £10,000. Thereafter one of the respondents pleaded guilty to the

    possession of cannabis but no order was made for the forfeiture of the cash seized. The

    guilty plea meant that the police’s authority, pursuant to PACE, to retain the money had

    lapsed and the other respondent made an application under the Police (Property) Act 1897

    for the return of the money. The police made out cheques in H’s favour but immediately

    re-seized them under s.294 of the 2002 Act as the statutory minimum for the seizure of

    money had reduced to £5,000. The appellant subsequently applied under s.298 of the

    2002 Act for forfeiture of the seized cash but the judge decided as a preliminary matter

    that there had been no lawful seizure under s.294 and that there was therefore no power to

    proceed under s.298. The questions posed for the opinion of the High Court were:

    (1) Could money seized under the provisions of PACE be re-seized under the 2002 Act;

    (2) Could there be a re-seizure under the 2002 Act when at the time of the first seizure

    the legal minimum allowed was £10,000.


    Money seized under the provisions of PACE could be re-seized under the 2002 Act

    provided that the money re-seized amounted to no less than the legal minimum at the time

    of the re-seizure. There were no time limits on the exercise of the power to seize money

    pursuant to s.294 of the 2002 Act and seizure could occur at any time. Further the police

    could seize money already in the possession of the police. The position was analogous to

    that of property found on an individual after he was arrested.



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    Reply with quote  #10 

    Hi All... thanks for all your posts with regards to 'Criminal Justice System'.  Lots of extremely interesting reading here!


    With regards to oldbill's post, and the subsequent links included within the post, which take us to each government department that is 'responsible for reducing and preventing crime' - I meticulously went through each link, as I was interested as to what each one contained, seeing as the Government are currently reforming the Criminal Justice System so that 'victims of crime are at the heart of the work they do'.


    The first link, Victims Of Crime contained the following, which I thought I would highlight:


    We're working hard to get the level of crime down but we're also reforming the justice system to put the needs of victims first.

    By putting victims and witnesses at the heart of the justice system we believe justice will be done more often and more quickly. We also want to improve the experience victims have when they come into contact with any part of the criminal justice system, to ensure they are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.


    I thought it was a fantastic post, but on the flip side of the coin, what about all those innocent people who are victims of the very same system that claims to want 'to put the needs of the victims first'?


    With regards to Magpie's post on 'Lenient Judges: Guilty As Charged?', in which judges deny it is their fault that lenient sentences make a mockery of justice, I found this article very interesting indeed.  Perhaps most interesting was the part of the article which said that the criticism is that judges err on the side of leniency to avoid the humiliation of their judgements being overturned by the Appeal Courts.


    So they 'err on the side of leniency' to protect their reputation, regardless of the type of case or offender that is before them in a Court? Ultimately, who is to blame?  For as far as I was aware, the decision of  length and severity of a sentence lay with the Judge.  Too much passing of the buck going on within the system.  Again.


    With regards to Hammer6's post on 'Trials & Errors' - fantastic post, and the quotes from Derek Ogg, a leading defence lawyer, in which he said that "our justice system, under-funded and under pressure is weighted towards miscarriages", and also that, "the main problem is targeting by police", were bang on.


    I agree wholeheartedly with the concept that evidence from a crime scene is more 'tailored' to fit a suspect, as opposed to finding suspects from evidence found at a crime scene. 


    And history shows that there is a LOT OF EVIDENCE of that happening within our system.

    I'd rather be hated for what I am, than loved for what I am not".

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    Reply with quote  #11 

    Swagger surveillance!


    The Times July 10, 2006

    Guilty feet: CCTV footage of Mijailovic at the crime scene

    Aiming to catch criminals red-footed

    A computer system can spot those who are guilty by the way they walk, report our correspondents

    THEY may be able to wear disguises, dodge CCTV and even keep their DNA under control, but one thing will always identify criminals — their walk.

    Far from relying on fingerprints or photofit, scientists now believe that an individual’s gait can give the game away.

    Police have databanks of palm prints, ear prints and handwriting at their disposal, as well facial recognition systems that can match fugitive faces with those in a crowd. But the next step could be swagger surveillance.

    For more than ten years, scientists have been working on a computer system that can analyse the movements of criminals caught on CCTV and compare them with those of a suspect. The system works on the premise that every individual has a signature walking style.

    The technique is still in its infancy but has been employed in high-profile cases. Swedish police successfully used it three years ago to identify a robber involved in a bank raid in which a customer was killed. Officers investigating the murder of Anna Lindh, the Swedish Foreign Minister, in 2003 asked experts to examine the walk of their suspect, Mijailo Mijailovic. Their efforts were not needed — Mijailovic confessed — but the case highlighted the technique’s potential.

    In Britain scientists backed by the MoD and a £500,000 research grant are working on “automatic gait recognition”, which will allow police and courts to compare images captured on CCTV with the walk of a suspect.


    Mark Nixon, of the Southampton University department of electronics and computing, said that studies showed everyone has a distinct walk. This was because of subtle differences in muscle strength, tendon and bone length, bone density, visual acuity, co-ordination skills, experience, body mass, centre of gravity, muscle or bone damage, physiological conditions, and a personal walking “style”.

    He said that it was very difficult for someone to disguise the way they walked, and they could still be identified whether casually sauntering up to the bankteller or sprinting from the scene of the crime.

    Professor Nixon’s team believes that gait recognition has advantages over facial mapping. “Gait recognition could have significant implications for police. In the James Bulger case you could see the boys walking away but not their faces,” he said.

    Professor Nixon said that research showed that people would recognise someone they knew with 80 per cent confidence. The team has built up a bank of images of data on volunteers to measure the differences in the way people move and to test out their theories. The volunteers walk through a biometric tunnel and have their movements caught.

    It is hoped that criminals could be made to walk through similar tunnels to make identifications. Professor Dixon said: “It would have been a pipe dream ten years ago but now computers are faster and memory is a lot cheaper to buy.”

    Eventually a national databank will be created to demonstrate to courts that individuals do walk differently and that the evidence of identification is safe to use as evidence.

    Work is also being done on the techniques in China, Australia, Japan and the United States, where scientists have been experimenting with radar guns, similar to those used by police to track speeding cars. The US system sends out a pulse of radar energy and receives the signals reflected off objects. As a person walks the radar signals change.

    The system can recognise and capture the different patterns during natural walking movements. The movements create an individual radar signature and can be replayed in the form of matchstick men.


  • Many countries are moving towards biometric passports but the technology has difficulty recognising bald men, black people and those with brown eyes

  • Britain has one of the largest DNA databases in Europe. In January the Home Office said police had solved 88 murders because of DNA testing

  • This year Yeovil became the first British town to install fingerprint scanners in pubs and clubs to identify potential troublemakers

  • Plans have been mooted for a database of footprints to help police to search for links between suspects’ shoes and prints from unsolved crimes
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    The State Of Surveillance 


    Artificial noses that sniff explosives, cameras that I.D. you by your ears, chips that analyze the halo of heat you emit. More scrutiny lies ahead

    iris scan - The State Of Surveillance CATHERINE YANG / Business Week 8aug2005

    Lost in the recent London bombings, along with innocent lives, was any illusion that today's surveillance technology can save us from evildoers. Britain has 4 million video cameras monitoring streets, parks, and government buildings, more than any other country. London alone has 500,000 cameras watching for signs of illicit activity. Studying camera footage helped link the July 7 bombings with four men — but only after the fact. The disaster drove home some painful reminders: Fanatics bent on suicide aren't fazed by cameras. And even if they are known terrorists, most video surveillance software won't pick them out anyway.

    Tomorrow's surveillance technology may be considerably more effective. But each uptick in protection will typically come at the cost of more intrusion into the privacy of ordinary people. For now, the public seems to find that trade-off acceptable, so scientists around the world have intensified efforts to perfect the art of surveillance, hoping to catch villains before they strike.

    Research laboratories envision tools that could identify and track just about every person, anywhere — and sound alarms when the systems encounter hazardous objects or chemical compounds. Many such ideas seem to leap from the pages of science fiction: An artificial nose in doorways and corridors sniffs out faint traces of explosives on someone's hair. Tiny sensors floating in reservoirs detect a deadly microbe and radio a warning. Smart cameras ID people at a distance by the way they walk or the shape of their ears. And a little chemical lab analyzes the sweat, body odor, and skin flakes in the human thermal plume — the halo of heat that surrounds each person.

    All of these projects are on a fast track since September 11. Meanwhile, consumer demand is speeding their development by lowering the cost of the underlying technologies. Camera phones, nanny cams, and even satellite photos are commonplace. Biological sensors are flooding into households in the form of tests for HIV, pregnancy, and diabetes — some of which can relay data to a doctor — and soon there will be far more sensitive DNA-based tests. Next up are radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. They're showing up in stores to help track inventory, and 50 people in the U.S. have had them planted under their skin to broadcast their ID and medical data, in case of an emergency.

    Together these developments herald a high-tech surveillance society that not even George Orwell could have imagined — one in which virtually every advance brings benefits as well as intrusions. Rapid DNA-based probes, for example, could help protect us from bioweapons and diagnose diseases, but they might also reveal far too much about us to health insurers or prospective employers. The trade-offs are uncomfortable, in part, because corporations and governments will continue to wield the most advanced surveillance systems. But ordinary citizens will also gain capabilities to monitor their surroundings with consumer technologies, from Web cams to Net search and tracking tools, allowing the watched to observe other watchers.

    One great worry is that those who stand out from the norm or express unpopular views, minorities, the poor, or just the ill-mannered, may get stomped in new and surprising ways. A recent incident in South Korea shows how this can play out. A subway commuter posted on the Internet some cell-phone photos he took of a passenger who had refused to clean up after her dog relieved itself during the ride. In no time, a vigilante mob on the Web identified her by her face and the purse she was carrying, and she became the object of national vilification. "You can move into a surveillance society one tiny camera at a time," says Deirdre Mulligan, director of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley.

    If terrorism becomes endemic in Europe and America, emerging surveillance tools may be abused in even more egregious ways. At the same time, the overhead burdens of a police state, from the dossier-building to the endless security checkpoints, could impose crippling costs on a free-market economy. Witness the U.S. clampdown on foreign student visas, which could end up crimping universities' ability to do advanced research. "We could bankrupt ourselves, much like the Soviet Union did," notes Kim Taipale, executive director of Manhattan's Center for Advanced Studies in Science & Technology Policy.

    Experts disagree about when the most visionary tools to thwart terrorist acts will arrive on the market — and whether they will deliver on their promise. Sensors that can detect bombs, radiation, and toxins exist today, and will be far more sophisticated a decade from now. But strewing them across every city in America would cost untold billions of dollars. High-tech electronic eavesdropping on communications networks can be effective, but only if terrorists use telecom systems. And even with improvements in cameras, biometric devices such as iris scans, bomb sniffers, and tracking software, it will be years before they can pick a terrorist out of a crowd. In short, the march toward a surveillance society may be inevitable, but no simple cost-benefit equation can assure us that the sacrifices will be worth it. We'll be debating the point for decades to come.

    Gin or Tequila? In the quest to sort bad guys from good, scientists are poking ever more intimately at the core of each person's identity — right down to the DNA. One day people's distinctive body odor, breath, or saliva could serve as an identifier, based on the subtle composite of chemicals that make up a person's scent or spit. One's smell "is a cocktail of hundreds of molecules," says Frank V. Bright, a chemistry professor at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York. "The question is whether it's a gin and tonic or a margarita." While some of these sensors perform well in the lab, he adds, the real world may be different: "The technology is still in its infancy."

    Science today is hard put to identify smells a beagle could nail in an instant. "We want to show there is a set of underlying odors in people independent of perfume and what they ate that day," says Gary K. Beauchamp, director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center at the University of Pennsylvania, a pioneer of odor prints. But for Beauchamp, Bright, and others, surveillance is just one objective. The more immediate goal is to use their biochemical understanding of human odor to diagnose diseases. Specific chemicals are associated with certain illnesses — carbon disulfide with some forms of mental illness, for instance, and nitric oxide with cancer.

    Messengers in your Mouth In Bright's lab at the University at Buffalo, scientists are creating super-sensors to pick up myriad molecules released at low concentrations that constitute human scents, including carbon dioxide, acetone, ethanol, and sulfur. To capture them, they poke tiny pores into glass — as many as 10,000 on a chip the width of a pencil eraser — each tailored to the size of the molecule. Excited by a laser, the chemicals trapped in the pores emit different colors, and computers can then analyze the resulting pattern.

    Dental researchers are attacking the challenges of identification and diagnosis from another vantage point — the mouth. They're studying whether saliva contains markers for various diseases. If the technology works, it has additional potential for biometric applications, too. Spit contains many of the proteins, nucleic acids, and other substances that are found in blood. While they are present in fainter quantities, they can also be sampled less intrusively.

    Scientists at the University of California at Los Angeles have found that they can detect in human saliva some 3,000 messenger RNAs, molecules that carry genetic information within a human cell. These molecules perhaps can serve as markers for disease, or perhaps for identity, just like DNA. And they are often easier to detect. About 180 RNA markers are common across all individuals, but the remainder can differ. "We don't know how constant these are to the individual on a Monday vs. a Friday, but they could possibly serve as fingerprints for that individual," says David T. Wong, associate dean of research at the UCLA School of Dentistry. Last December his team identified four RNA markers in saliva that may indicate the presence of oral cancer.

    The use of bodily scents and secretions as biometrics presents an intriguing anti-terrorism weapon. But if the science isn't rock-solid, it can lead to a nightmare of mistaken identities. That's a problem even with mature biometrics, such as fingerprints. The fingerprints of Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield were erroneously matched to those of a suspect in the Madrid train bombing last year. This cast a cloud over the innocent man for weeks.

    Biometrics bring a host of other troubles. As they become used more and more in office access, ATM passwords, passports, and ID cards, their value increases, and so do efforts to steal or spoof them. And because biometrics are cloaked in science, matches may acquire an unearned aura of dependability. Recently, cryptographers in Japan showed that common fingerprint-based systems can be easily duped using simple molds of melted Gummi Bear candies. In hopes of precluding such scams, Albuquerque's Lumidigm Inc. captures images of not only the fingerprint itself but also the terrain beneath the skin. This includes the swirling patterns of active capillaries, which help indicate that the finger is alive. Fujitsu Ltd. has just installed palm scanners that read vein patterns at Mitsubishi bank ATMs.

    Despite the many failings of biometrics, the federal government is encouraging scientists to fashion them into covert surveillance tools. Face recognition — the most obvious way to track people because it's how humans do it — is still dogged by problems matching images that may be distorted by a smile or ill-placed shadow. While scientists work out those glitches, others are improving iris-based technology for surveillance at a distance. Though computers can easily find eyes on a face, today's systems can't scan irises from afar as people rush through a crowd. Sarnoff Corp., a contract research outfit in Princeton, N.J., hopes to unveil a solution to that later this year.

    Another hope is that certain characteristic movements may be recognizable at a distance. Taking a page from Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research body credited with inventing the Internet, funds work on software that could identify individuals by their strides. Researchers measure the silhouette of the torso, the swinging of the shoulders and legs, and the time it takes to move through a single step, says Mark Nixon, a professor in computer vision at Britain's University of Southampton. Right now, people can still trick the system by wearing Manolo Blahniks, but there may be signature rhythms that are harder to disguise. Such "gait recognition" systems may be 5 to 10 five years from commercialization.

    Many people in building security welcome advances in surveillance. In New York, two-thirds of Class A residential and commercial buildings use some combination of biometrics and surveillance for access control or checking time and attendance, says Robert Tucker, CEO of security consulting firm T&M Protection Resources. Incidents of mistaken identity are rare, he says. Biometrics can also vindicate an innocent person by establishing a correct ID, notes Raul J. Fernandez, CEO of Object Video Inc., which makes software for intelligent camera surveillance: "Highly accurate technology is a friend to privacy."

    The most serious privacy breaches are almost all linked to the proliferation of fast and inexpensive data processing and storage systems. The worst problems arise when each bit of information an individual gives up over the course of a day — from the E-ZPass scans on the morning commute to the credit card purchase at Starbucks (SBUX ) to the logging of PC keystrokes at work — get tied across various databases to create a detailed dossier of an innocent Joe's daily activity. "We're a couple generations away from the technology that makes it possible for a computer to save everything you do," says Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at Counterpane Internet Security Inc.

    But in info tech, the generations can fly by at superhuman speeds. Ever since September 11, the U.S. government has been striving through the power of software to extend its investigatory net over an elusive enemy lurking among the populace. The idea is to rifle through multiple databases using algorithms that categorize and rank documents — ranging from airline manifests, car rental records, and hotel guest lists to credit, court, and housing records compiled and sold by private companies such as ChoicePoint. In this way, machines might recognize relationships among human beings that humans themselves can miss.

    This is just one of many measures that trigger a Big Brother alert. One of the hot buttons is eavesdropping. An emerging wireless technology called software-defined radio has the power to make cellular phones compatible with any network standard, but also opens new frontiers of snooping. The commercial merits of the technology are self-evident: Say good-bye to dead zones and lack of interoperability between police and firefighter radios. But the technology also enables superscanners that can be tuned to pick up the images on your neighbor's computer. That's possible because all computers emit stray radiation. With software-defined radio even amateurs could probably design equipment that could spot somebody porn-surfing in the next apartment. The technology can also make it easier to turn the cell phone of a spouse into a bug when it's not in normal use.

    Pores and Wrinkles Advances in many surveillance technologies piggyback on progress in fields such as wireless signal processing, nanotechnology, and genomics. Even plain old digital cameras are hotbeds of innovation. The imaging sensors in consumer cameras have been achieving ever-higher resolutions, while plunging in price. Because the gadgets are so engaging, crowds end up participating in surveillance efforts. Witness spectators holding cameras and phones aloft whenever news breaks — an act that may aid investigations, or hold police misbehavior in check. And in biometrics, today's high-res imaging chips "are an answer to our prayers," says Mohamed Lazzouni, chief technology officer of Viisage Technology Inc., (VISG ) a Billerica (Mass.) maker of face-recognition software. "Now we are able to do things that we couldn't do three years ago."

    Improved picture quality has given a boost to Viisage rival Identix Inc., allowing it to add in minute details of the skin to increase the accuracy of facial recognition. It divides a small area on the face into a 400-block grid, and then inspects each block for the size of skin pores, wrinkles, and spots. And using an infrared camera, researchers at A4Vision Inc., a Sunnyvale (Calif.) startup funded in part by In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture fund, cooked up a 3D approach. Its system creates a topographical map by projecting a grid pattern of infrared light onto a face, and matching the features.

    Strides in wireless signal processing are bringing the power of astronomical instruments to homeland security. Giant radio telescopes today listen to the faint energy waves emanating from stars billions of light years away. The first earthbound applications of this electronic wizardry will be airport scanners that scrutinize passengers' bags. The principle is simple: All matter gives off so-called background radiation, or millimeter-wave heat, whether it's a supernova or a switchblade. Brijot Imaging Systems Inc. recently unveiled a $60,000 system that, Brijot claims, can distinguish between the heat coming from a human body and that from a metal or plastic object — and can pull this off from distances of up to 45 feet. (The company says its system doesn't capture anatomical details.)

    A kindred technology can "see" the molecular composition of matter using extremely short wavelengths of energy. When a machine made by Picometrix Inc. shines these terahertz waves on a target, its molecules resonate at a telltale frequency. One plastic explosive, for instance, vibrates at 800 gigahertz. T-rays pose no radiation hazard because they don't penetrate human skin. But people being scanned will appear naked on the monitor unless the system is programmed to cover up private parts.

    Airport safety is just a small facet of the security challenge that lies ahead. Biological and chemical attacks can be ignited in any location, and spread with alarming speed. "If we could put sensing devices everywhere, maybe we could stop such attacks," says Thomas Thundat, a senior scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. But the cost is now prohibitive.

    Elusive Goals The Holy Grail is a universal sensor, small and cheap enough to scatter in public places, and smart enough to sniff out anything that comes its way, without being preprogrammed to find specific molecules. Nobody is close to that goal yet, but Sandia National Laboratories has designed a lab-on-a-chip that detects a variety of both chemical and biological agents. It has skinny microchannels etched in its surface. When a gas or liquid moves through the tiny pipes, it collides with special material, and how much that slows the flow betrays the identity of the fluid. Sandia is now developing this technology to monitor the Contra Costa County (Calif.) water supply.

    U.S. Genomics Inc. in Woburn, Mass., claims that it is hot on the heels of a universal sensor. Its prototype uses particular molecules to tag important DNA sequences in the genes of lethal pathogens, such as anthrax. Then, primed with a fluorescent dye, those sequences light up, and a photo detector compares the pattern of illumination with a library of known bioagents.

    These systems may not be in place in time for the next attack in a Western country — let alone in Egypt or Iraq. And if terrorists hit the U.S. again, the authorities are bound to strike back. Among other things, today's restraints on racial profiling are likely to crumble. Then what? In the arms race against suicide bombers, will surveillance technologies prove their worth?

    Some already have. Electronic monitoring has foiled some terrorist plots, and portals that spot guns and explosives make airports safer. Unfortunately, many of the most powerful technologies are simply too green. It may take a decade or more before networks of biochemical sensors are ready to blanket a whole city. And it could take as long before camera systems can pick a known face — terrorist or otherwise — out of the throngs. For now, only a combination of electronic monitoring and human intelligence stands a chance of holding radicals at bay.

    In the meantime, scientists who labor on surveillance prototypes are encouraged that their innovations can bring benefits in health care and food safety. Over time, people may get smarter about how to live with threats and make use of technology without undermining their most basic values. They must. A country that sacrifices its citizens' freedom in the fight to protect them is no victor.


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    The Times July 21, 2006

    Violent criminals lose right to early release from prison

    DANGEROUS criminals will lose their right to be considered for parole halfway through their sentences under changes to the criminal justice system.

    The proposals announced by the Home Secretary yesterday come only a year after the introduction of the most comprehensive reform of sentencing for 15 years.

    John Reid admitted that the Criminal Justice Act 2003 had produced some imbalances in sentencing. He said that the public was bewildered at how sentences were decided. But he ruled out reforming the Human Rights Act.

    His 24-point action plan aims to rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of the law-abiding citizen.

    It includes a huge expansion of on-the-spot justice. Police could be given extra powers to deal with low-level crimes and antisocial behaviour. People caught without a TV licence or charged with minor motoring offences could be dealt with in bulk processing centres. Mr Reid also plans to give police summary power to close shops that sell knives and spray cans to children.

    Under the 2003 Act, dangerous and violent offenders given indefinite sentences can be considered for parole when they have served half a notional tariff. Offenders given fixed sentences of more than a year are automatically released under supervision at the halfway stage.

    Mr Reid wants to give the judges the power to order that dangerous offenders serve a higher proportion of their tariffs before they are considered for parole or released. He also wants to introduce extended sentences for prolific and persistent offenders.

    In addition, the Government believes that the rule giving offenders a one-third discount on their sentences if they plead guilty early on is too restrictive.

    The Home Office plan said: “We want judges to have more discretion so that they no longer have to reduce the minimum sentence they impose by up to a third, regardless of the circumstances.

    “Judges should be able to reduce or remove the discount for an early guilty plea where the evidence against the defendant is overwhelming.”

    In another change, no prisoners will be freed early unless their parole board agrees unanimously. In violent and sexual cases, the boards will have to listen to victims’ views.

    Mr Reid’s proposals will mean more prisoners spending longer in jail. To deal with this, 8,000 extra prison places will be provided by 2012.

    Harry Fletcher, the assistant general secretary of the probation union Napo, criticised many of Mr Reid’s ideas. He said that the criminal justice system needed stability, not more turmoil.

    “The criminal justice system was last fundamentally revised in 2003,” he said. “Many of those changes were implemented in April 2005. The system does not need yet more legislative changes. It needs a period of stability.”

    But Judge Keith Cutler, secretary to the Council for Circuit Judges, said that the proposals, to be fine-tuned in a consultation paper, were in line with what judges themselves had wanted and proposed.

    He added: “It is ironic that after having our discretion gradually whittled away over the last ten years it is now being restored.”


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    The Independent


    Petty criminals to face court within a day of being caught

    By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent

    Published: 22 July 2006

    Petty offenders will be brought to court within 24 hours of being caught under plans to cut the delays and bureaucracy that are choking the criminal justice system. Teenagers who have broken the law for the first time will get the chance to avoid court if they apologise directly to their victims.

    Under wide-ranging plans announced yesterday, offences such as television licence evasion or failure to have a valid MOT certificate, would be removed from courts. The time it takes for cases to be dealt with by magistrates, who handle 95 per cent of criminal prosecutions, has risen from 128 to 139 days over the past five years. Average waiting times for cases to come to trial in crown courts have increased by nearly two weeks, with wide variations.

    The package, published by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, is aimed at driving delays down. It came a day after John Reid, the Home Secretary, announced moves to "rebalance" the criminal justice system in favour of victims. Lord Falconer set out plans for "next-day justice", which would see some offenders brought before magistrates within 72 hours. Graffiti artists, shoplifters, vandals, noisy neighbours and people caught with dangerous weapons could face high-speed appearances.

    Lord Falconer wanted to set up "courts on the move", in town halls or community centres. The plan aims at bringing justice "closer to local people", particularly in sparsely populated areas.


    Pilot schemes will be set up in four police forces in the autumn, under which youths who commit a low-level crime will escape a court appearance if they say sorry. The programme set out plans to deal with 500,000 minor cases in a bulk-processing centre. Drink-fuelled offenders could be ordered to attend alcohol education courses rather than being fined.

    Crown court procedures would be streamlined by eliminating unnecessary pre-trial hearings, dealing more effectively with early guilty pleas, and cutting the average number of pre-trial hearings from six to two.

    It will extend the community justice programme - which combines judges, probation and support services under one roof - to 10 new areas. It already runs in Liverpool and Salford.

    Lord Falconer said: "Too many cases take too long to come to court.

    "Processes both in court and beforehand are often lengthy and arcane and take little account of the needs of victims and witnesses.

    "The new measures mean that the criminal justice system, and in particular the courts, will be more responsive to concerns raised by local communities, reconnecting the criminal justice system with the public it serves."


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    Criminal justice refers to the system used by government to maintain social control, enforce laws, and administer justice. Law enforcement (police), courts, and corrections are the primary agencies charged with these responsibilities. The pursuit of criminal justice, like all forms of "justice", "fairness" or "process", essentially the pursuit of an ideal.


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