Page last updated at 14:49 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 15:49 UK

Britons 'passive against crime'

Hooded youths
Britons are loathe to confront anti-social behaviour, the report says

British people are the least likely in Europe to be "have-a-go heroes" and get involved if they witness a crime, research from a think tank claims.

The public policy group Reform says that Britons have become "passive bystanders" in the fight against crime.

It says the UK has the world's most expensive justice system but people abdicate responsibility to politicians, police and the courts.

The government said the justice system had been "transformed" since 1997.

A joint statement from Home Office Minister Tony McNulty and Justice Minister David Hanson said many measures to ensure justice was seen to be done were already being implemented.

Reform's report calls for further initiatives to get the public more involved, such as regionalised criminal justice policies and televised court proceedings.

If the face of British criminal justice was once George Dixon of Dock Green, the new face might be the Robocop of Detroit's fictional future
Reform

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Access to online offender databases would also allow people to check details of sentence and release dates and thereby become more closely involved in the justice system, it argues.

And it calls for a National Bureau of Investigation, rather like the FBI in the US.

Crime has become so "nationalised and politicised" that the home secretary and the prime minister are held responsible for every assault, says the report.

"Maintaining lawfulness should be seen as part of the duty of every citizen," it says.

The report quotes a survey which studied public perception of anti-social behaviour in six European countries - France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

It found six out of 10 of the people questioned in the UK would be unlikely to challenge a group of 14-year-old boys vandalising a bus shelter, more than any other country surveyed. In Germany, six out of 10 said they would challenge the group.

'WOULD NEVER INTERVENE'
France: 19%
UK: 30%
Germany: 7%
Italy: 13%
Netherlands: 19%
Spain: 17%
Source: ADT Fire and Security
The same survey, which questioned about 1,000 people aged 16 - 64 in each country in January 2006, asked: "Who is responsible for controlling anti-social behaviour?".

In the UK, the police and courts were held responsible by 76% of people surveyed - the highest percentage of the countries involved. The corresponding figures were about 45% for Germany, France and the Netherlands.

In Germany, about half of those questioned said tackling anti-social behaviour was the responsibility of teachers and the community.

But in every country, parents topped the poll of who should bear the brunt of the responsibility.

Elizabeth Truss, deputy director of Reform, says people in the UK need to intervene more.

"At the moment the system is invisible to people... you don't see justice being done and that increases the fear of crime and stops people getting involved."

"So I think it's actually intervening to ensure lawful behaviour takes place."

Robocop future?

The report criticises the policing and criminal justice system for being over-centralised.

"Britain's 'Robocop' criminal justice system is a one-size-fits-all-system", says the report.

It argues "the result is a criminal justice system without a human face - bureaucratic, technocratic and machine-like".

"If the face of British criminal justice was once George Dixon of Dock Green, the new face might be the Robocop of Detroit's fictional future," it argues.


The police and public are completely disengaged and we are paying through the nose for the privilege.

Dominic Grieve
Shadow home secretary

The UK spends the largest amount on law and order as a percentage of GDP out of all the countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), it says.

British people, it finds, are more worried about crime than their European counterparts.

In the UK 43% say it is one of their highest concerns compared to 21% in Germany and 27% in the US.

It calls for the home secretary to focus on the strategy needed to deal with the most serious national organised crime and terrorism.

Increased confidence

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty and Justice Minister David Hanson issued a joint statement, in which they said the government's approach to law and order had both made communities safer and also offered support to victims of crime and witnesses.

"Through the Policing Green Paper and the Casey Review we are already implementing many of the measures the report suggests to ensure justice is done - and seen to be done - on a local level.

"By the end of the year every police force area will produce crime maps which will allow the public to see where and when crime has happened and learn how crime is being tackled by their local neighbourhood policing team.

"In addition, public confidence in the criminal justice system has increased significantly in recent years and we are working hard to bring more offenders to justice and to improve services to victims and witnesses.

"Strengthened, and increasingly visible community sentences have been created to ensure that those who have committed crimes make reparation to the community they have wronged, as well as being punished."

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said the report was a "shocking indictment" of the state of law and order.

"The police and public are completely disengaged and we are paying through the nose for the privilege".

Reform is a think tank that focuses on public service reform and economic issues.




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