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The Criminal Justice System in the UK

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The Criminal Justice System is put in place to uphold justice by creating peace in our rather chaotic society. The UK Criminal Justice System is made up of The Police service, The Crown Prosecution Service, The Courts, and The Probation Service. The legal systems work to ensure there’s a level of fairness by finding justice for victims affected by crime and decreasing chances of reoffending criminals. This is done by helping them be more educated and learn life skills. Through the Criminal Justice System, the government measures rates of criminal activities. Crime statistics show the effectiveness of Criminal Justice Systems in the UK. For example, in 2014 crime rates fell by 7% which was the lowest level since 1981. The different levels of attrition are recorded yearly to review ways in which the Criminal Justice System can improve areas of crime that may be increasing and to maintain justice.

The Police have a statutory role in the criminal justice system to spot, identify crime and document it. Though the Police are given a lot of power when dealing with crime, there are also guidelines which they have to follow under PACE to ensure they don’t abuse their power. However, even with PACE, there’s been records of Police abusing their power and often offenses are not recorded as should be. The British Crime Survey Report published in 2015 produced evidence indicating around 19% of offenses were not recorded. This could mean the statistics of crime rates in 2015 and previous years are not being recorded accurately, meaning those who were victims of those unreported crimes, lacked the justice owed to them by the system and the criminals weren’t punished for their crimes and may be continued to reoffend as a result.

Many are dealt with outside the court system by the police. The Police Service Statement states ‘ the purpose of the Police service is to uphold the law fairly and firmly; to prevent crime; to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law; to keep the Queen’s peace; to protect, help and reassure the community; and to be seen to do this with integrity, common sense and sound judgement’. This statement suggests the Police not only need to ensure justice but also protect.

However past cases suggest that members of the police force can’t put aside their personal views about racial stereotyping and often discriminate and treat black people and other ethnic minorities in a more aggressive and unpleasant manner. One of the rights given to members of the police is the right to stop and search an individual suspected of a crime in a public place and the right to arrest and detain that individual. However, with this power there’s still regulations, under the Police and criminal evidence Act 1984 to ensure crime suspects are still treated fairly and justly as they are being ‘suspected’ meaning innocent till proven guilty. Legislation’s like the one above not only aid to decrease and overall prevent miscarriages of justice but also ensures individuals are aware of their rights under the Human rights Act 1998 and the way in which they deserve to be treated under the Equality Act 2010 when being searched, detained, arrested or simply interacting with the police.

A lot of people are not made aware of their rights, therefore, find themselves in terrible situations with members of the police that want to ignore people’s rights and PACE. There have been many cases that have led to major concerns regarding policing. ‘Since 1990, an inquest has recorded more than 1,000 deaths in prison and in police custody in the UK[7]. A majority of these individuals have been black citizens or part of other ethnic minority groups.

These statistics are shocking and has had a negative effect on the way in which the police are perceived by individuals in society, especially ethnic minorities. In the year ending March 31, 2016, 386,474 stop and searchers were conducted by the England and Wales police. Of the 386,474 stops and searches made 58,397 were people identified as black or black British citizens, meaning black people are 6.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than any other race. This has increased following the statistics of 2014 and 2015 which was 4.4 times. This fails to show improvement in the way in which black people and other ethnic minorities are seen as criminals and continuously suspected of crime because of no other factor but their race. The 2016 statistics suggest that following the review Teresa may call for in 2015 whilst home secretary, after the results of the number of deaths in police custody, since then nothing has changed, police have continued to discriminate and racial profile black people when to stop and searching. Since then the home office has published a report regarding the independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody. The review states 110 recommendations to improve time in police custody.

During the 2-year period it took for the government to release a report there were 8 deaths involving restraint and force in the police custody. Though the government has released this report which we hope can refrain from death and injuries in police custody. It remains evident that some members of the police system which we are meant to rely on for protection can kill members of our public no matter their race.

When investigating the accountability of the police, I was shocked to find there has never been a successful prosecution for manslaughter following a death in police custody, the earliest and latest successful prosecution of a police officer after death in custody was in 1969 following the death of David Oluwale in Leeds, the police officers were found guilty of assault, not murder, which in itself is shocking considering it satisfied murder. More recent in November of 2017, Nuno Cardoso was the fifth black man to die being restrained by the police just this year. This show’s that the review hasn’t improved death in police custody and the fact that police officers are not being prosecuted for these death’s means they will continue to kill and abuse their power as there are no consequences for their actions.

The Crown Prosecution Service has had a major role in criminal cases since 1985, as they decide on the verdict of suspects. Following the Prosecution of Offenders Act 1985, the CPS work independent from the police and the government, they prosecute around 600,000 cases yearly. Their duty consists of ensuring the right individual is prosecuted, for the right offense and to bring criminals to justice when possible. Other roles of the CPS include to decide which charge is appropriate in cases that are more complex, they are in charge of preparing cases and presenting them in court and also prior to the trial, they offer any support or information the victims or witnesses may need. The CPS also must follow the code for the Crown Prosecutors, meaning before deciding on the charge, ‘Prosecutors must be fair, objective and independent’.

When it comes prosecuting, the CPS will not prosecute if the evidence supporting the case is insufficient or not credible.

However, if they find the evidence to be sufficient, the prosecution needs to decide on whether or not the conviction is in the interest of the public. Though the CPS claim to be independent of the police and Government, others may argue they are reliant on the police in order to do their job, therefore their decisions may be influenced by the police. Following the handling of the Nigel Evans case, the attorney general; was called to open an urgent review of the CPS’S approach to historic sex offenses, this leads people to question the independence and liability of the CPS. As well as this they were accused along with the police of failing to disclose crucial evidence about defendants in 2017. The CPS like other criminal justice systems in our society often suffers a lot of critics about decisions they have made, however, it’s important to remember the positive impacts they have on our society when it comes to bringing justice.

The CPS carryout annual strategic assessments, which aids them in identifying local priorities and formulate plans that will help them to address these problems, they also have the victim personal statements, where victims are given an opportunity to talk about their experience and get support if needed[16]. This is very important, as it helps to target problem areas and create a safer environment and the Victim personal statements influence other victims to speak out and know justice will be served.

The Courts are another type of criminal justice system. The role of the Judiciary is essentially to enforce legislation and interpret the law as written. Judges in the court will make decisions on cases through the doctrine of judicial precedent.

A large majority of cases are held by lay magistrates, which are normal members of our society that may not hold any legal qualifications, however, sit and hear cases as a bench of two or three, as a single lay magistrate has limited power. Though some cases are often heard by actually qualified lawyers, some people believe it’s better to hear by lay magistrates as they are day to day people, rather than a lawyer that might fit the description of an older white, upper-class, male which may not know the realities of life for a regular person. However, others also criticize how the lay magistrates that are chosen, don’t represent society, in terms of race, class, and age, I think it’s more representative compared to a regular courtroom. Lay magistrates have a high satisfaction rate, I guess this is due to the fact that people feel as if they are being tried by their peers.

The crown court deals with serious criminal cases, murder, rape, and robbery. A jury will most likely appear in the crown court, to decide the verdict of the case or a judge that decides on the sentence. Trial by jury to some ensures justice as similar to the lay magistrates, it’s being tried by your own peers and instead of one judge it’s a diverse group of regular people. In the past, there have been cases of miscarriages of justice, where members of the jury were biased. In the case of Sajid Qureshi’s, where members of the jury already made their mind up before the trial, one of the members had fallen asleep and other members of the jury were bullying and heavily trying to influence others, this lead to a very unfair trial.

Cases like this raise a question, can non-qualified members of the public be trusted to make a just and fair decision merely based on the case, ignoring the media and opinion of peers? The jury may not be a correct representation however its picked random so this is not the fault of the courts. Though some people agree that juries should continue to appear in the crown court, just like with a lot of things in the criminal justice system there’s positives and negatives. As though the jury allows individuals to be tried by their peers, the jury has no legal backgrounds and may not be able to fully understand, it’s a rather complex issue. A trial by jury can extend the time it takes for the court to have a trial as it’s a long process finding reliable individuals. The courts ensure there’s justice in our society by sentencing criminals and making our towns and cities are safer. By sentencing they are also granting the victims a peace of mind, knowing justice was served.

When looking to bring justice, there’s been times where individuals have spent a long time in prison, prior to being prosecuted for a crime they didn’t commit, these miscarriages of Justice indicate that often the court’s decision can be wrong due to evidence being ignored, and lack of forensic resources, limited evidence, and other factors. In rare cases of individuals like Victor Nealon, he spent 17 years in prison for a crime he was innocent of because the police and the CPS neglected to test DNA. These cases show ways in which the criminal justice system fail the victim but most importantly the suspect, as they are seen as guilty without being proven so. These miscarriages of justice will continue to take place in our criminal justice systems as they often rely on unreliable forms of evidence. Cases of miscarriages of justice show us that the most reliable sources which the system relies on to solve crime such as eyewitness, circumstantial evidence and even DNA evidence can all be discredited.

A Dr. Naughton ‘that the presumption of innocence leaves those accused of crime vulnerable to wrongful convictions because fewer resources are allocated to the defense team. Instead, the prosecution and police are well funded to chip away at the presumed innocent status’. This suggests that in some cases if you are seen as suspect, with lack of resources and time to find another individual that may be a suspect, it’s likely that you could be found guilty. Miscarriages of justice are our criminal justice system failing to deliver justice and being unfair and unjust to the victim and the innocent individual prosecuted. Under wrong prosecution the individual falsely prosecuted doesn’t get help from the system. The prison gives them money for transport, they’re not given accommodation which they may not have due to losing family ties, and are put back in society with no help whatsoever, despite being wrongly accused of committing a crime.

Another way the criminal justice system creates justice and upholds it is through the National Probation Service, which was established after the probation Offenders Act 1976. Their role as ‘statutory criminal justice service that supervises high-risk offenders released into the community’. It’s important that criminals serve time according to the crime they have committed. Once criminals are released some a quick to return back to criminal activities as it’s hard to get employed with a criminal record. Reoffenders may choose to target similar people or commit a different crime. Therefore, it’s important that the criminal justice system has an organization like the probation service to help control those they believe are high-risk offenders. The youth offending teams work with the probation service to help young offenders to change their lives around so they don’t offend in their adult lives, this was established under the crime and disorder act 2003.

One of the many roles the probation service has to provide sentencing reports and bail information, its key aim, has changed numerous times since it was founded in 1976, however, now it aims to focus on improving lives of offenders in society.

The many organizations which work together to create the criminal justice systems and deliver justice put in a lot of work to maintain peace in our society. Though they are often criticked for miscarriages of justice, racial profiling and other negative things that are shown in the media, if the system wasn’t implemented in our society there would be a lot of chaos, like the ones we hear about in certain third world countries. In 2016, an article by the BBC stated ‘The criminal justice system in England and Wales is failing victims and witnesses and is close to “breaking point”, MPs have warned’. Following the shocking statistics in yearly crime reviews, through the last couple of years.

Though it’s often easy to only recognize the negatives when looking at the police and other criminal justice systems, we also gain a lot from them, as they continue to prioritize the lives of the citizens in most cases. Though the criminal justice system currently isn’t as great as it should be, when looking at statistics, because of the criticism and backlash, the public gives the system, I hope to see a lot of change, more people are educating themselves on the system and aware of the problems, this will make the system improve their overall way of portraying criminals and hopefully they will work harder to decrease the overall crime rates. Overall criminal justice systems hold the capacity to make just and fair decisions, a small number of members of the system don’t want to cooperate, however, if the system sets out punishment for police officers that don’t follow the code of conduct and continue to abuse their power, this could have a positive impact on the system and we will begin to see better results and an increase of Justice being served in our communities.

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