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Magpie

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The Times July 24, 2006

US-style law to allow plea bargaining for big City fraud cases


Longer sentences for bigger offenders is part of a new system to deal with an annual £14bn bill

A TOUGH US-style approach to big-money City fraudsters, including sharp increases in prison sentences and a national fraud squad, will be announced by the Government today.

The plans, aimed at cutting the economy’s annual £14 billion fraud bill, include pleabargaining, whereby lesser defendants are offered lenient sentences or witness immunity in return for vital evidence against a “Mr Big”. Such tactics were cited by the “NatWest Three” as unfair in their unsuccessful fight to resist extradition to the US to face charges related to the Enron scandal.

The authorities believe that such measures are essential if the British criminal justice system is to stand any chance of curbing the rising levels of high-finance fraud.

Robert Wardle, head of the Serious Fraud Office, has told The Times that the incidence of fraud far outstrips the number of cases investigated. “The justice gap must be narrowed,” Mr Wardle says in an interview to be published tomorrow.

He is strongly in favour of longer jail terms for fraudsters, including a sharp increase in the maximum term for theft, which was recently reduced from ten years to seven.

The present system of fighting financial crime involves costly, cumbersome and lengthy fraud trials, which regularly collapse. The aim of the overhaul of fraud cases to be announced by Lord Goldsmith, QC, the Attorney-General, is to shorten trials by focusing on key suspects. Less important offenders will be asked to become witnesses in exchange for lighter penalties, and in the most complex trials, juries would be scrapped.

Last week John Reid, the Home Secretary, announced his intention to revive controversial proposals for judge-only trials in fraud cases. The measure is on the statute book but was rejected when it came before Parliament for the approval needed to bring it into force.

The reform package is the outcome of a Whitehall review, expected to propose a unified strategy. At present fraud is tackled across various agencies, such as the Serious Fraud Office, the Crown Prosecution Service, HM Revenue & Customs and the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Lord Goldsmith is expected to announce that the City of London Police economic crime unit will have overall responsibility for investigating fraud across England and Wales.

Greater police resources will be recommended: now more than 10,000 officials are investigating fiscal and benefit fraud, yet there are only about 400 officers in police fraud squads, plus 120 in the City. There will be a national reporting centre, enabling agencies to share intelligence.

The fraud review has been impressed by America’s pragmatic approach, aiming for the few big-league criminals rather than spreading the net and seeing everyone escape.

Prosecutors working with the Serious Organised Crime Agency have been given powers to plea-bargain with defendants and to offer witness immunity. Such deals are likely to be accompanied by wider use of moves to remove the proceeds of fraud from the defendant.

Lord Goldsmith said when announcing the fraud review last autumn: “Every year fraud costs the economy the equivalent of £230 for every person in the UK. It cuts across multinational corporations and is embedded in terrorism, human trafficking and drug smuggling. It affects individuals through credit card fraud and ID theft.”

David Corker, a specialist fraud lawyer from Corker Binning, the London law firm, said: “I would welcome a move to concentrate on the Mr Bigs, with plea-bargains for the rest and profit-stripping. The problem, though, is that tabloid newspapers might find it hard to accept that someone who is guilty should not be banged up or is getting a light sentence.”

Plea bargains, deals with lesser witnesses to catch bigger fish and tougher sentences are all key to the US system of prosecuting fraud, with convincing results. Kenneth Lay, the Enron chief who died recently, had been convicted on several counts of fraud, conspiracy and bank fraud, and was awaiting sentence. He could have spent the rest of his life in jail.

Lay insisted that the only fraud at Enron was committed by underlings, and maintained that Andrew S. Fastow, who had been chief financial officer, bore most of the responsibility. Fastow pleaded guilty to conspiracy and agreed to serve ten years in jail, other charges being dropped in exchange for his co-operation with prosecutors and testimony in the trials of Lay and Jeffrey Skilling.

James D. Zirin, a litigator in New York who knows the US and British trial systems, said: “The purpose of public prosecutions is to make examples of people. So we do tend to focus on the Mr Bigs. Fraud cases are generally made through co-operating co-conspirators who strike a plea bargain with the prosecutor. There is no better way to make a case. Who else could they call as a witness to fraud — the Archbishop of Canterbury?”

PAYING A HIGH PRICE FOR JUSTICE

  • In March the two-year Jubilee Line extension trial collapsed, leaving taxpayers with a £60 million bill. The six defendants were cleared. £14 million went on legal aid

  • A £12 million Southwark Crown Court fraud trial collapsed after two months in July 2004 because the Serious Fraud Office was “grossly negligent”, disclosing in documents to the defence a highly secret paragraph

  • The Independent Police Complaints Commission is to investigate the Revenue & Customs team involved in Operation Venison after the collapse in May last year of a £120 million VAT fraud trial. Another 18 cases may be affected. Court costs could be £100 million

  • The Maxwell brothers, Kevin and Ian, were cleared after a seven-month trial in 1996 costing £30 million, at least half in legal aid, ended in acquittals

  • The Brent Walker fraud trial ended in 1994 with costs of about £40 million. The former boxer George Walker was cleared; Wilfred Aquilina, his finance director, was convicted of false accounting

  • The Guinness fraud trials of 1990-93 cost some £30 million and ended with the acquittal of Thomas Ward on a theft charge. Ernest Saunders, Gerald Ronson, Jack Lyons and Anthony Parnes were convicted, Roger Seelig and Lord Spens were acquitted and charges against David Mayhew, a takeover consultant, did not go to trial
  • Admin2

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    Reply with quote  #17 

    Robert Wardle is a solicitor who joined the Serious Fraud Office in 1988 on its foundation. After articles and a spell as an assistant solicitor in private practice, he worked as a prosecuting solicitor in Essex and Cambridgeshire and then for the Crown Prosecution Service.

    At the SFO he has worked as a Case Controller and was made Assistant Director in 1992. From 1996 to 2000 he was head of the policy division with responsibility for liaison with Whitehall, regulators, the legal professions and the police, and for dealing with all policy matters including proposed legislation.

    In October 2000 he moved to an operational division with overall responsibility for about thirty cases, and for vetting cases referred to the Serious Fraud Office.

    The appointment of Mr. Wardle, who takes over from Mrs Rosalind Wright CB, was announced by the Attorney General on 30 December 2002.


    Notes:

    The Serious Fraud Office was created under the Criminal Justice Act 1987 to investigate and prosecute the most serious and complex cases of fraud. It commenced operation in April 1988. It is an independent government department headed by the Director under the superintendence of the Attorney General.

    The appointment of the Director of the Serious Fraud Office is made by the Attorney General under section 1 (1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1987

    The SFO has prosecuted 255 trials involving 544 defendants of whom 384 have been convicted, which represents a conviction rate by defendant of 71%. Convictions have been gained in 84 % of the cases prosecuted by the SFO.

    Serious Fraud Office, Elm House, 10-16 Elm Street, London, WC1X 0BJ

    Press Office phone 020 7239 7001/7000 Mobile 0781 807 6688


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    Admin

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    Reply with quote  #18 

    Hi Magpie, Admin2 & Hammer6... thanks for all your posts with regards to 'Criminal Justice System'.

     

    I am of the firm opinion that our current criminal justice system is in desperate need of a major overhaul, but that the Government perhaps should start with their own first and foremost before throwing about threats about how criminals will face tougher and longer sentences. 

     

    "Criminal Justice refers to the system used by Government to maintain social control, enforce laws and administer justice".

     

    If that is indeed the case, why are we becoming more aware of the miscarriages of justice that have occurred in the past, and indeed are still occurring?  Is there any justice in that?  Is there any justice in the level of corruption that goes on within the aforementioned system? 

     

    With regards to the Serious Fraud Office mentioned by both Magpie and Admin2, I found out the following:

     

    About the SFO

    What kind of organisation is the SFO?

    The Serious Fraud Office is an independent government department that investigates and prosecutes serious or complex fraud. It is part of the UK criminal justice system.

    The Office is headed by the Director who is appointed by and accountable to the Attorney General. The Attorney General is appointed by the Prime Minister and is responsible to Parliament for:

    • the Serious Fraud Office
    • the Crown Prosecution Service
    • the Treasury Solicitor's Department
    • the Department of the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland
    • the CPS Inspectorate
    • the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office

    Jurisdiction

    England, Wales and Northern Ireland fall within the SFO's jurisdiction.

    The SFO does not have jurisdiction over Scotland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands.

     

    ###################################################

     

    Yet another organisation that does not operate within Scotland.  England has the IPCC, Scotland does not.  England has ackowldged that corruption exists within some of it's police forces, Scotland has not.  England has organisations to tackle issue such as corrpution, and as highlighted above, fraud - Scotland does not.

     

    The question is, when is Scotland planning on tackling the issues of corruption, and implementing the much needed overhaul of the criminal justice system?


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    Magpie

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    The Times August 01, 2006

    1,000 jail staff taking bribes from inmates, says inquiry


    PRISON officers are taking bribes from inmates wanting help to move to less secure prisons, according to a leaked report on corruption in the jail system in England and Wales.

    An estimated 1,000 officers are suspected of involvement in corruption, ranging from accepting cash payments to helping inmates move to easier jails and smuggling drugs and mobile phones into prisons for their use.

    The leaked report, by the Metropolitan Police and Prison Service’s anticorruption unit, has come to light as prison numbers reached the record of 78,897 yesterday — just 817 below the total capacity of the 139 jails in England and Wales. Seven hundred of the available spaces are in open prison.

    The report on corruption said that, while most prison service staff were honest, some were accepting inmates’ cash for transfers to less-secure prisons where life is a bit more comfortable.

    The Prison Service said that the report, which was leaked to the BBC, overstated the corruption issue and had also relied on anecdotal evidence.

    However, senior figures within its own anticorruption unit are quoted as saying that the problem is growing and is not being tackled effectively.

    One unnamed prison boss is quoted in the report as saying: “Here corruption is endemic . . . I have identified over 20 corrupt staff, but there may be more.”

    Another says: “I currently have ten corrupt staff and I am managing the threat they pose to my prison — positive mandatory drug testing figures are over 20 per cent so it must be staff bringing in drugs.”

    More than half of prison officers and former prisoners questioned for a Home Office report published last year said that staff were responsible for smuggling contraband into prisons.

    The report said: “Many of the staff who were interviewed acknowledged that such trafficking goes on, and could substantially increase the amount of illegal drugs available in an establishment.”

    Phil Wheatley, director general of the Prison Service, said that the allegations of corruption involved only a small minority of staff, but it was important to deal with the issue.

    “There is a problem, there is always a problem about bent staff. I was warned about the dangers of staff being compromised on my very first day in the service in 1969,” he said.

    “It’s an ongoing problem with prisons. We need to be alert to it.”

    Mr Wheatley told the BBC Radio 4 programme Today: “I have no doubt that we have to regard this as something that is serious and work hard at it. But I don’t think that the answer is to create a large investigatory force, for which I would have to take resources away from frontline work to do, when actually the police are a genuinely independent investigation force able to investigate crime. And this is crime we are speaking about.”

    Magpie

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    Drugs fuel big rise in organised crime

    New report shows gangs enjoy easy access to guns and judicial corruption

    Mark Townsend, crime correspondent
    Sunday July 30, 2006
    The Observer


    Organised crime in the UK is increasing rapidly, with firearms and drugs easily obtained by underworld syndicates which are also moving into child pornography to swell profits, a government report reveals tomorrow.

     

    The first analysis of the threat of criminal gangs to the UK by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) adds that corruption remains a problem in the criminal justice system and that, far from reforming offenders, prison now forms the 'basis for many later criminal collaborations'.

     

    In an alarming picture of the influence of major crime networks, the report admits the internet and the skill of syndicates in keeping one step ahead of police and security services mean the threat of organised criminals to the UK is 'increasing in both scope and complexity'.

    Set up last February to target Britain's biggest gangsters, Soca's assessment warns that UK criminals are 'unlikely to have difficulty in acquiring a firearm should they wish to do so'. It adds that demand for firearms remains high, with criminals able to procure weapons from the internet or through the post easily and with reasonable safety.

    Although attempts to crack down on child pornography have intensified, the report concludes that the number of active sex offenders in the UK remains unknown. However, evidence suggests numbers are growing, with the internet 'increasing the scale and reducing the risk' to perpetrators.

    As the market has grown, intelligence reports reveal that major organised criminal networks are starting to move into child pornography. Recent trends monitored by police include the growing use of 'morphing', where images of children are altered by computer technology, while advances in internet technology have allowed 'real-time video coverage of abuse shown simultaneously to a number of viewers'. The US remains the host country for most illegal websites, although in the past year Japan has witnessed a sharp growth.

    The report also notes with concern that the continued fall in the price of drugs indicates that measures to reduce the trade in illegal narcotics are failing. Average street prices of heroin have fallen from £70 a gram in December 2000 to £49. The cost of a gram of cocaine fell from £65 to £40 over the same period, while the price of ecstasy pills dropped from £9 to £4.

    Over the past year, intelligence officials recorded a growing number of trafficked prostitutes from Lithuania and Africa, notably Nigeria, entering the UK. Street prices for illegally imported prostitutes are currently running at between £2,000 and £3,000. Elsewhere, attempts to smuggle illegal immigrants into the UK are still being made through the French ports of Calais, Coquelles and Dunkirk, with Moscow, Kiev, Istanbul, Sarajevo and the Balkans identified as key points en route to the UK. The number of criminal gangmasters involved in finding work for illegal immigrants in the UK stands at 10,000.

    One of the most serious issues for Soca remains corruption, and it recorded 'a number of instances where UK law enforcement officers have acted corruptly and colluded with criminals,' although precise details are not given. Despite attempts to eradicate corrupt relations between serious criminal figures and figures throughout the criminal justice system, the report adds that syndicates remain adept at using the 'corruption of insiders ... to monitor law enforcement actions and techniques'.

    Countries pinpointed as posing a particular threat to the UK because of their criminal interests include Turkey, which continues to play a pivotal role in the supply and processing of heroin. London-based Turks are responsible for disseminating the drug, which is mainly cultivated in Afghanistan, to secondary distribution centres, usually Liverpool and Birmingham. Most heroin arrives from the ports of south-east England such as Harwich, Dover and Felixstowe, with half of the UK trade shipped from the Netherlands after being driven overland from Turkey.

    The Netherlands and Spain remain the main entry points to Europe for Colombian cocaine, again with most shipped into the UK via south-east ports.

    Armed robberies seeking 'cash-in-transit' targets reached 837 last year with the most infamous occurring last February with the organised attack on a facility in Tonbridge, Kent, that yielded a haul of £53m.

     

    hammer6

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    Drugs really do drive some people crazy...

    Legislators and judges.

    It's the word you never hear during an election: drugs.

    Probably no one wants to come to grips with the fact that, just as prohibition in America in the 1920s criminalised half the population, so the UK's so-called "war on drugs" has the potential to criminalise very many younger people.

    A report on drug use in Ilkeston, Derbyshire confirms this view.

    Unbelievable as it might seem, two extremely harmful drugs -

    nicotine and alcohol - are legally on sale, despite the harm they

    do to many of their users.

    Worse, the Blair Government is so in hoc to the alcohol-pushers that they want said drug is now available 24/7.

    It remains a great pity ... that our society is so immature that Mr Cameron feels - probably rightly - that it would destroy his chances to be specific about his experience of illegal drugs. He should be in a position to give a straight answer about past drug use without fearing that he would be hounded out of the race.

    *******************************************

     

    http://www.criminalsolicitor.net/

     

    *******************************************


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    Magpie

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    Jail doesn't work, say crime victims

    Study shows most people who have been affected by crime have no faith in prison as a deterrent

                    Jamie Doward, home affairs editor
    Sunday August 13, 2006
    The Observer
                   

    The vast majority of crime victims do not believe that prison reduces levels of offending, according to a major new report to be published tomorrow. The surprising findings of the first survey of those whose lives have been affected by crime suggest the public is losing faith in the penal system.

    The report's publication comes as prison numbers reach record levels with reformers warning of disastrous consequences unless the government expands the use of alternatives to custodial sentences.

    The Home Secretary, John Reid, plans to create 8,000 more prison places but campaigners warn this will do nothing to ease congestion. Last week, in a sign of how acute the overcrowding problem had become, prison governors were ordered to trawl young offender institutions to find those who might be suitable for early release to calm the crisis.

    Tomorrow's report, by SmartJustice, the campaign group that promotes community-based punishments, suggests the public no longer endorses a 'lock them up' policy when it comes to the majority of criminal offences.

    It is based on an ICM survey of 1,000 crime victims which found that 62 per cent of victims do not believe prison reduces non-violent crime - the type of offences that makes up the vast majority of all crimes committed in Britain.

    Instead, most victims believe the government needs to spend more money tackling the causes of crime. Eight out of 10 victims interviewed said more constructive activities for young people in the community, and better supervision of children by parents, would be effective in stopping re-offending.

    Seven out of 10 victims also wanted to see more treatment programmes for drug addicts and those suffering from mental health problems.

    'Eighty days into his 100-day deadline and all John Reid has come up with are 8,000 new prison places,' said Lucie Russell, Director of SmartJustice. 'This government is obsessed with being tough on crime and is not paying enough attention to why offenders commit crime in the first place. It's no good just building more prisons, when most offenders come out worse than when they went in.'

    The poll asked how non-violent crimes like shoplifting, car theft and vandalism can be reduced. More than half of crime victims said they were in favour of making offenders work in the community to stop them returning to crime. And just over half of victims were in support of making offenders meet their victims to make amends personally.

    'What victims of crime are saying loud and clear is that we need more action on prevention to stop these crimes happening in the first place,' Russell said.

    Home Office figures show 67 per cent of offenders are re-convicted within two years of release from prison, where a shortage of resources means treatment and education programmes are in short supply. Last month the prison population topped 79,000 for the first time, leading to problems across the entire system.

    Research by the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) suggests over half of the prisons in England and Wales are now officially overcrowded. Of these, one in five has exceeded what the Home Office calls its 'safe overcrowding limit'.

    Juliet Lyon, director of the PRT, said the report provided an important wake-up call. 'Most sensible people know that endlessly ratcheting up levels of imprisonment won't work when it comes to reducing non-violent crime,' she said. 'You just end up with an ever-growing number of ex-prisoners, homeless, jobless and [those] ready to reoffend again to fund a drink or drug habit.'

    Admin

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    Reply with quote  #23 

    Hi Magpie & Hammer6... thanks for your posts with regards to 'Criminal Justice System'.

     

    So... jail doesn't work, say the victims of crime?  Well, they would, and whilst I agree wholeheartedly that prisons are a necessary force when dealing with the more dangerous and perverted criminals amongst our society, I also have to agree that in some respects, jail just doesn't work.

     

    Whilst I don't agree that  crime should go unpunished and that people who commit crime should, in some cases, get away without a custodial sentence, I believe that there is too much overcrowding and not enough rehabilitation, education, and dare I say it - compassion, for those who are locked up within our prison systems. Criminals they may be, but they are also human beings. And in particular, I refer to very young offenders, and then there is the case of those who have been wrongly convicted.

     

    Only recently did it come to the attention of the media that one of the main sources of drugs coming into prisons were via bent prison officers.  Should the system not be trying to teach prisoners a different way of life, instead of feeding, and sometimes, creating, drug habits amongst it's prisoners?

     

    When prisoners are given a number, and locked away from society in overcrowded conditions, where drugs, bullying and corruption are rife, then is it any wonder that prisons don't work?

     

    My views only, and whilst some people firmly believe that criminals should be locked up and the proverbial key thrown away, I don't.  Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves the chance to turn their life around.  If they choose not to take that chance, then so be it, but they deserve the chance at least.

     

    And now I shall get off my soap box.


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    oldbill

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    The POLICE are the FIRST link within the CJS but who are they?

     

    For most of us, the police are the visible face of the criminal justice system.  The police patrol our streets, arrest the suspects, collect the evidence, and without them there would be no criminal justice system.  But how much do we know about the police force and the issues and challenges it is currently facing?


     

    Ten Police Basics

    1. There are eight police forces in Scotland, 43 in England and Wales, and the single Police Service of Northern Ireland divided into 30 District Command Units. 
    2. At the last review of policing in England and Wales in March 2004, there were139,200 full time police officers – a record number exceeding the previous year’s record of 133,366 and the government target of 132,500.
    3. This represents an increase of 5.4%, the largest single year increase in the last 35 years.
    4. The police officers are backed up by 73,822 full time support staff.
    5. This number includes over 4,000 Community Support Officers.
    6. Each police force is run by a local Police Authority and funded by local council tax and government grants.
    7. Most Police Authorities are made up of nine councillors, three magistrates and five independent members and are responsible for hiring and firing the chief constable.
    8. Each police force is divided into areas or divisions based at local police stations known as Basic Command Units (BCUs).
    9. Each police force has part-time volunteer officers known as Special Constables.
    10. London’s Metropolitan Police Service is the largest police force.  It employs over 31,000 officers and 12,000 support staff and covers an area of 620 square miles and a population of over 7.2 million.


     

    Who Are the Police?

    Police Officers are divided into ranks.  The majority of the police force is made up of Police Constables (P.C.s).  Next up Sergeant, then Inspector, Chief Inspector, Superintendent, Chief Superintendent, Assistant Chief Constable, Deputy Chief Constable, and most senior is Chief Constable.  In the Metropolitan Police the senior ranks are slightly different.

    On completing training, a P.C. in the Metropolitan Police is paid £28,383, a Sergeant is paid £36,405, and an Inspector is paid £41,586.  In other forces a P.C. is paid £22,107 after completing training, a Sergeant is paid £31,092, and an Inspector makes £39,840.

    In England and Wales there are 4,629 black or minority ethnic officers, only 3.3% of the total but an increase on last year’s figures.  5.7% of support staff are black or minority ethnic.  One in five police officers is now a woman, although most occupy junior ranks.  Only 8.9% of officers of the rank of superintendent or above are women.

     

    Did You Know?

    • 80% of people in a survey performed by the Audit Commission said they were not satisfied with the levels of police patrol in their area.
    • 80% of police officers surveyed by the Police Federation of England and Wales stated that they did not wish officers to be routinely armed on duty.
    • A recent report published by the Institute of Public Policy Research stated that the outdated design of police stations alienates the public and hampers police effectiveness.  The report recommended the return of police boxes in the style of Japanese Kobans.


     

    Useful Links


     


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    hammer6

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    21 August 2006
    GET OUT OF JAIL FREE ..AND GO TO THE PUB...
     
    (AND WE'LL EVEN PAY YOUR BUS FARE)
     
    BAIL BLUNDER PRISONER GOES BOOZING
     

    A PRISONER enjoyed a drunken night in the pub after being released from jail by mistake.

    Michael Black had only been in prison for two days when officers told him he was getting out on bail.

    They even gave him a bus pass to get home.

    Black knew there had been a mistake but he didn't let on.

    Instead, he signed the release papers - which were meant for another con - and celebrated his freedom by getting drunk with his fiancee and his pals.

    The jail blunder was particularly embarrassing as it had taken police nine months to track Black down and get him to face justice.

    The thug's fiancee Shelley Hay said yesterday: "It is just unbelievable the prison could make such a huge mistake.

    "Michael made the most of his night of freedom by getting blind drunk and having a great night with his mates.

    "It took police all that time to find him and the prison let him out after two days. It was a complete shambles."

    Earlier this month, Black, 34, was sentenced to five months in jail after he admitted several charges, including punching a man on the head and threatening to kill Shelley, her dad and her nine-year-old daughter.

    He was taken to Saughton Prison in Edinburgh to serve his sentence.

    Two days later, jail officers received bail release forms for a 44-year-old prisoner called Michael Graham Black. They got mixed up and asked new inmate Black - whose middle name is William - to sign the papers.

    Black was given his belongings, including clothes and his mobile phone, before being released.

    He was also given a bus pass to get to his parents' home in Dunbar, East Lothian.

    Barmaid Shelley, 30, said: "He rang me from his mobile phone and said, 'they've released me'. I could not believe it. I thought he was joking.

    "He told me they'd given him the wrong bail form. He's not stupid - he made the most of their mistake and signed his name so he could get out.

    "But the error could have been dangerous - he could have been an axe murderer."

    Black never got the bus. He was picked up from the prison gates by a friend, who drove him to Shelley's house in Haddington.

    She said: "He got back about 5pm and we went straight out to our local, The Bay Horse.

    "His pals in there couldn't believe their eyes. He'd only been jailed a few days earlier. They all bought him a drink.

    "We decided to just wait for the prison to work out their mistake and for the police to come knocking.

    "His parents rang him at about 10pm on his mobile to say the cops were after him. Michael made the most of the time he had and drank as much as he could."

    Father-of-five Black returned to the pub the next day before police finally arrived at Shelley's house to pick him up.

    She added: "I was working and when I came back at 7pm he was really drunk and asleep on the sofa. I thought the police had maybe given up on him but they turned up 10 minutes later.

    "They didn't handcuff him. He was just put in the car and taken back."

    A police spokesman said: "When the prison service informed us of a prisoner released in error, we checked his home address and contacted his relatives.

    "We received information he was somewhere in the Haddington area but his exact whereabouts were unknown.

    "Officers continued looking for him and he was eventually picked up on the Saturday evening."

    A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said yesterday: "The governor ordered an immediate investigation, the outcome of which is yet to be completed.

    "It would, therefore, be inappropriate to comment further at this time."


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    hammer6

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    50 crimes a day 'too trivial' to prosecute...

    MORE than 50 offences a day reported by police to prosecutors are going unpunished because they are judged to be "too trivial", new figures have revealed.

    A report published today shows more than 19,000 incidents were discarded by prosecutors in 2004-5 because further action would be "disproportionate".

     

    Tayside had the highest number of cases, 9.1 per cent, dropped for supposedly being too trivial, followed by Strathclyde and Fife. The total represents nearly 6 per cent of all crimes submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in that year.

    The report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland urges police and the Crown Office to work more closely to ensure so-called "low-level" offences such as vandalism, breach of the peace and minor assault are dealt with appropriately. It also recommends greater useof alternatives such as police warnings or on-the-spot fines.

    Opposition MSPs reacted with alarm at the figures and said the high number of cases being dropped was undermining public confidence in the criminal justice system.

    The Crown Office said it marked cases "no proceedings - further action disproportionate (NPFAD)" only if they were so minor they did not merit even a warning letter - suggesting police are wasting their time, and that of fiscals, by filing reports on the most trivial incidents. A spokesman said examples of cases ditched by fiscals included a child smashing a window with a snowball, and a youth poking fun at a police officer's hairstyle.

    But police say there is growing frustration among officers and victims that thousands of "lesser" offences, investigated and solved, are dropped by prosecutors, although new crime-reporting standards demand officers record more incidents.

    The report says a huge amount of police and fiscal time could be saved if lesser offences were dealt with by police warnings and fixed penalties, rather than by sending reports to the Crown Office, which uses more resources. It also says such an approach would have the benefit of ensuring justice was seen to be done.

    The report states: "A high percentage of offences that can be classed as minor are reported to procurators fiscal. But, the inspection team accepts the term 'minor' is relative and the impact of a minor crime can be significant to the victim and community."

    The report suggests a national framework should be drawn up so police and fiscals know which offences should be prosecuted and which should be dealt with through other means, such as fixed penalties and warning letters.

    Kenny McInnes, a former assistant inspector of constabulary who helped write the report, said: "We are not suggesting these decisions by fiscals are inappropriate, but we are saying there are lessons that can be picked up from these cases. I expect that the public will be surprised at these numbers."

    Margaret Mitchell MSP, the Scottish Tories' justice spokeswoman, said: "What incentive is there for the public to report crimes when police take incidents up but the prosecutors do nothing? At the very least, warning letters should be sent out."

    Andrew Buckingham, of Victim Support, said: "We know things like anti- social behaviour have a very negative effect on local communities. When crimes are not cleared up or challenged, it leads to concerns."

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    The Sun 24th August 2006

     

    Shoplifters may escape jail

    By SUN ONLINE REPORTER

    SHOPLIFTERS would not be jailed unless they committed an "aggravated" offence, such as using violence, under proposed changes in the law.

    The new rule could apply even when the thief was a persistent offender who had breached community sentences in the past.

    An alternative plan would see shoplifters to be jailed for up to eight weeks if they were "seriously persistent".

    A report by the Sentencing Advisory Panel (SAP) admitted the first, "no jail" option would be a "radical departure" from present practice.

    The Government-appointed body recommends changes to the Sentencing Guidelines Council.

    It said aggravating factors could include using violence, high-value thefts, operating in gangs, planning an offence, professional shoplifting, using children to commit the offence or targeting vulnerable victims.

    The alternative option would "allow for a custodial sentence for a standard offence when committed by a 'seriously persistent' offender", it added.

    It has now asked for views on whether option one or two would be preferable.

    Responses will be accepted until November 16, before the panel puts together a final report.

    Shoplifting is the largest category of theft offences sentenced by courts in England and Wales.

    In 2004, 61,670 adults were sentenced for stealing from shops.

    Of those, 13,135 or 21% were jailed.

    Of the rest, 27% were given an absolute or conditional discharge, 22% were fined, 27% were put on a community sentence and the remainder were "otherwise dealt with".

    In 2004-05, police recorded 280,000 cases of shoplifting.

    Since November 2004, police have been able to deal with the crime by issuing an on-the-spot fine in cases up to a value of £200.

    In the first nine months of last year just over 14,000 fines were issued for shoplifting.

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    The Sentencing Advisory Panel is an independent body originally set up to provide advice to the Court of Appeal, when it was the Court‘s responsibility to issue sentencing guidelines.

    The Panel now provides advice to the Sentencing Guidelines Council. Before submitting a proposal to the Council the Panel is required to consult widely.

    Find out about the people who make up the Sentencing Advisory Panel and learn more about our recent work in our annual report.


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    The Times August 28, 2006

    Victims are not getting justice, says law chief


    THE liberal legal establishment has been condemned by the Director of Public Prosecutions for its patronising attitude towards the public and victims of crime.

    Ken Macdonald, QC, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, said that elitist attitudes had helped to break the bond of trust between the public and the criminal justice system.

    In an extraordinary warning, he said that the country would enter dangerous territory if the public felt that justice was not being delivered by the courts.

    Mr Macdonald also called for a move away from the position held by many lawyers that only the defendants’ rights matter. Greater emphasis should be given to the rights of victims and witnesses, he said. “Few sounds are less attractive than well-educated lawyers patronising vulnerable victims of crime with inflexible platitudes.”

    The speech has been made public as new figures show that while 80 per cent of people think that the justice system is fair to the accused, only 36 per cent are confident that it meets the needs of victims. It also comes after a series of highprofile killings by criminals released from jail on parole.

    Mr Macdonald said that in some cases the victims of crime had been treated as “pariahs” by the system and witnesses were handled in an appalling manner. The DPP added: “The perception that no one looks out for them and that it’s only defendants whose rights are taken seriously is not wildly wrong.”

    He said that there had to be fairness for both victims of crime and suspects: “The view that only defendants’ rights matter, still quite commonly held by many criminal lawyers, appears to me to be a fundamentalist position that we should move away from.

    “My own view is that liberal commentators need to start by acknowledging that the public have a point. The service given to victims and witnesses has traditionally been appalling.”

    The speech is Mr Macdonald’s most controversial since he became director three years ago. Made in May at a seminar organised by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London, and passed to The Times, it will provide useful ammunition for the Government, which announced plans to rebalance the criminal justice system in favour of the law-abiding majority last month.

    Mr Macdonald said that the old-fashioned idea that thecriminal justice system sits above the public and consists of principles and practices beyond popular influence or argument was “elitist and obscurantist”.

    David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, had seen the need for a democratic element to criminal justice which, while not slipping into “vigilanteeism, serves to temper an increasingly dangerous disconnect between our people as a whole and the traditional judicial and practitioner establishment”, Mr Macdonald said.

    He added: “If people, including victims, feel they cannot secure justice through the courts, we are entering dangerous territory”.

    The speech, which was given to an audience of lawyers and criminologists, will provoke anger among many lawyers, particularly those representing suspects, and it will raise suspicions that Mr Macdonald wishes to water down traditional legal safeguards for defendants. But in it he insisted that the principles of jury trial, presumption of innocence, a right to appeal and full disclosure of the state’s case were all non-negotiable.

    Last night Richard Garside, acting director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said: “It is important that we make a distinction between a legal system treating people with respect and a defendant whose guilt has still to be proved.”

    John Cooper, a leading criminal law barrister, said: “The fundamental of a trial in the criminal justice system is the analysis of facts and evidence to decide if the prosecution have proved their case.

     

    “It is not, and never should be, an arena where victims primarily undertake a cathartic exercise for the allegation that is tested at the trial.”    

     

    The Times August 28, 2006

    Loss of confidence in courts taking legal system into dangerous terrain


    Click here for a look at recent cases that shook public faith

    THE Director of Public Prosecutions has given warning that the legal system will stray into “dangerous territory” if people feel justice cannot be achieved through the courts. However, the widespread perception is that the law and the legal profession have already lost the confidence of victims and the general public.

    The British Crime Survey 2005-06 reflects this view: 80 per cent of respondents thought the system was fair to the accused, but only 36 per cent were confident that it met the needs of victims.

    The widely held opinion is that criminals receive soft sentences, paedophiles are pitied, foreign terrorists are given vast sums in legal aid and illegal immigrants who commit crimes are never deported.

    Ordinary people who stand up for themselves and their families are either punished or become victims. Perhaps worst of all, the rights of such victims are ignored.

    Last month a judge was heavily criticised after sentencing a paedophile, who had repeatedly sexually assaulted an 18-month-old baby boy, to four years in jail. Judge Simon Hammond, sitting at Leicester Crown Court, said that Christopher Downes, 24, needed help for his “undoubted problems”.

    Michele Elliott, of the charity Kidscape, said: “There is something wrong when a man could admit to sexually abusing an 18-month-old baby regularly and be out of prison in two years.”

    The concern of campaigners is outstripped by the anger of the families of victims.

    Last month the family of Natalie Glasgow described as laughable the sentence imposed on Mark Hambleton, an electrician whose van hit and killed the 17-year-old girl as she walked home from a party. Hambleton was given a 100-hour community service order and banned from driving for a year.

    The dead girl’s father, Paul, said: “The law says it doesn’t matter whether you hit a teenage girl or a lamppost in terms of the charge of failing to report an accident. That can’t be right. It must be changed.”

    The apparent downgrading of victims’ rights, compared with those of the defendant, also causes anger.

    The defence of Kamel Bourgass, the Algerian terrorist trained by al-Qaeda who is serving life for murder and conspiring to make ricin toxins, cost the public purse £996,934 in legal aid.

    The family of DC Stephen Oake, who was stabbed to death by Bourgass in 2003, received only £13,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

    Judges reply that the legislative straitjacket is the cause of many of the current problems.

    The case of Craig Sweeney attracted huge attention. Sweeney was jailed for life by Cardiff Crown Court for abducting and indecently assaulting a three-year-old girl but Judge John Griffith Williams cut his minimum tariff in recognition of his guilty plea. It meant that Sweeney could be considered for parole in five years.

    As The Times reported last month, John Reid, the Home Secretary, said that this was unduly lenient. Vera Baird, QC, the Constitutional Affairs Minister, had to apologise after saying that the judge was wrong. The judiciary rallied round the judge, saying he had followed the law to the letter.

    Both Victim Support and Nacro, the crime reduction charity, say that perceived soft sentencing and the treatment of victims are separate issues. Paul Cavadino, chief executive of Nacro, said: “The sentencing in this country is harsher than most other Western Europe countries. And we have the highest prison population in Western Europe, both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of the population.

    “I don’t accept that you can measure how supportive a criminal justice system is to victims by the sentences given out.

    “It is not in the interests of victims to pass sentences that don’t reduce future offences.”

    A spokesman for Victim Support said: “Victims want a system whereby we deal with criminals properly and we give out punishments that are an effective deterrent. Our experience is that even if victims are happy with the result in court, the happiness is short-lived because their lives have still been altered.”

    Liz Jones said that she lost her faith in the criminal justice system when a teenager who smashed her cheekbone avoided a jail sentence last month. Dexter Hungwa, 16, attacked Ms Jones, a headmistress, because she had asked him to shut a door. Ms Jones, 51, said: “At first I was frightened because I thought he could turn up at any time. The experience was horrendous but when I found out that he had been given a referral order, I was really, really angry.”

    FACES OF THE LAW

  • Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice: Born Nicholas Addison Phillips, he was educated at Bryanston School, Blandford, Dorset, and King’s College, Cambridge. Chaired the 1998 BSE inquiry and was Master of the Rolls until 2005. Lists his hobbies in Who’s Who as the sea, mountains and music

  • Sir Anthony Clarke, Master of the Rolls, educated at Oakham School, Rutland, and King’s College, Cambridge. He became Head of Civil Justice in 2005 after seven years as a Lord Justice of Appeal

  • Lord Justice Judge, President of the Queen’s Division of the High Court. Educated at The Oratory School, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, and Magdalene College, Cambridge

  • Ken Macdonald, QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, educated at Prior Park College, Bishop Wordsworth’s Grammar school, Salisbury, and St Edmund Hall, Oxford. His hobbies, listed in Debrett’s People of Today, include 20th-century history, crime fiction and Arsenal FC

  • Stephen Hockman, QC, Chairman of the Bar, educated at Eltham College, and Jesus College, Cambridge

  • Nicholas Hilliard, QC, Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association: educated at Bradfield College, Berkshire, and Lincoln College, Oxford

  • Lord Falconer of Thoroton, QC, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs: educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond, Scotland and Queens’ College, Cambridge

  • Michael Mansfield, QC, leading human rights lawyer and defence barrister; educated at Highgate School and Keele University, called to the Bar 1967, QC 1989. He is president of the National Civil Rights Movement

  • Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, QC: Labour peer, barrister, writer, broadcaster, member of several public bodies and committees; educated Holyrood Secondary School, Glasgow, Council of Legal Education, called to the Bar 1972, QC 1991. She is a director of The Independent newspaper and involved with Liberty, the Civil Liberties Trust, and the Howard League for Penal Reform
  • hammer6

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    CCJS is an independent charity at King's College London that informs and educates about all aspects of crime and the criminal justice system.

    We provide information, produce research and carry out policy analysis to encourage and facilitate an understanding of the complex nature of issues concerning crime and related harms.

    What's New

    New Publication ... The rhetoric and reality of community engagement is examined in the latest edition of Criminal Justice Matters (CJM), the quarterly magazine of CCJS, embargoed for publication until 00.01 Monday 21st August. The issues are examined from theoretical and practical perspectives and this latest edition includes an interview with Sir Ian Blair, an article by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett and an article detailing findings from research commissioned by the Home Office into the potential for initiatives that tackle anti-social behaviour and crime to effectively involve local communities. Articles cited are available from the CJM page on the website. (16th August 2006)

    New Publication ... The government lacks a coherent evidence based strategy for dealing with knife carrying and knife related offences, says a new report by CCJS, Knife Crime: Ineffective reactions to a distracting problem? – A review of evidence and policy (PDF file, 354KB). (4th August 2006)


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