Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Nacro, comments in response to Friday’s tragic events in London:
Following the tragic events in London Bridge last Friday, our first thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones and all those affected.
People’s search for answers will understandably continue for some time yet. But the jousting we have seen over which colour of Government made which change to the law on sentencing gets us no closer to the truth of what went wrong in this case or what we can do better in the future. We don’t yet know all the facts of what happened last Friday or what led to the dreadful events and it is important we don’t jump to immediate conclusions. Below are some early points we should take into consideration as our understanding develops.
Firstly, we need to accept that tackling extremism is complex and requires detailed consideration. It is true that this doesn’t make headlines or soundbites but it is the reality and to make progress we have to accept this.
Secondly, one of the fundamental questions we need an answer to is what happened in the years Usman Khan spent in prison. As the vast majority of people who are sent to prison will be released in the future, rehabilitation is the most critical objective of someone’s time in prison. We all need confidence that when someone is released – whether it is after a year, 8 years or 16 years, the likelihood of them reoffending is as low as it possibly can be. We haven’t yet learnt all the details of this in Usman Khan’s case but this will be critical to our understanding.
And thirdly, we have to remember that our criminal justice system is one of the most visceral and emotive of public policy areas. More often than not public opinion not evidence drives policy responses. And much of the reality of the system is shrouded in mystery with little understanding. For example, the majority of people think that prison sentences have become shorter over recent years when in fact they have become longer.
Years of successive Government reforms and changes to the system driven by the perceived need to look tough and respond have added layer upon layer of complexity. Yet we have a prison system which is overcrowded and understaffed with record levels of violence; a probation system deemed as ‘irredeemably flawed’ by the Chief Inspector; police forces facing staffing crises; and a courts system bursting at the seams after closures of magistrates courts across the country. No one part of the system operates in isolation and the pressures felt at one end are felt across the whole.
To respond to people’s understandable demand for answers and action, we should steer away from knee jerk policy announcements. The best way to do that is to work with the evidence and to work with each other.