Making the right connections

A roundtable discussion on joined-up criminal justice in Britain: what the problems are, what needs


Marcel Berlins (chairman) - barrister and journalist
Glynis Bliss - County director, Victim Support, Northamptonshire
Shami Chakrabarti - Director, Liberty
Richard Garside - Crime and Society Foundation
Harriet Harman QC MP - Minister of State, Department of Constitutional Affairs
Marion Fitzgerald - Visiting Professor of Criminal Justice, Kent
Gloria Laycock - Director, Jill Dando Institute of Criminal Science
Janet Paraskeva - Chief executive, Law Society
Jim Skelsey - Partner, BSB, Solicitors
Glen Smyth - Chair, Metropolitan Police Federation
Paula Sussex - Account director, Atos Origin
Baljit Ubhey - Chief Crown Prosecutor, Thames Valley Crown Prosecution Service

Marcel Berlins We are going to spend some time on, firstly, looking at the question of joined-up criminal justice and asking what the problems are. We will pose the question: "Where are things going wrong because of the lack of joining up?" Then we will try and work out solutions to the problems we posed. But first, the Minister for the Department of Constitutional Affairs, Harriet Harman QC, has something to tell us about a government initiative.

Harriet Harman The proposal is to have special advocates for victims of homicide cases, and we are coming out with a consultation paper in the autumn.

While it is a consultation paper, we do have in the manifesto a commitment to do something. During my four years as solicitor general, and when I was working on cases of unduly lenient sentences in relation to murder and manslaughter, I was very struck by the sense among the bereaved relatives that they were completely excluded from the system. It seemed to me an incredible paradox that the people for whom that case matters most in the world are silent in court.

We have an oral system of justice, unlike the French - where everything is reduced to writing. Our cases are oral occasions, so the defence counsel will talk, the prosecution counsel will talk, the judge will talk and even passers-by will talk. But the people who will not say anything are the people who are sitting silently in the public gallery, usually not even referred to as being there. They might or might not have had a victim personal statement and that victim personal statement might or might not be referred to.

Then what happens is that they go out on to the steps of the court, and quite often there is a media scrum because the media are interested in hearing what the victim's relatives have got to say about the impact of the crime. The judge, who is supposed to take into account the effect of the crime on the relatives when sentencing, does not actually hear from them until he is driving home in his car and turns on the radio and hears them saying how the crime has devastated their lives and what this means to them. Alternatively, he may turn on his television and see them standing on the steps of the court.

It is a bit much for relatives to have to sit and listen to proceedings which are about somebody who they knew and cared about all their lives and not say anything. I also think it is a bit much that the only way they can express themselves, if they want to, is in the media scrum, which is often quite a difficult thing for people to manage. There should be a dignified moment in court, where they can make an oral victim personal statement and actually say what people used to say to me when I was dealing with unduly lenient sentences up to the Court of Appeal.

As Victim Support and the Crown Prosecution Service know only too well, people want to explain who the person was that they have lost. In homicide cases, the victim is never going to be able to speak for themselves. They are never going to be a witness, because they are dead. That is one reason for having a separate, distinct approach to the victims of homicide, the bereaved relatives. That is the first point.

Second, homicide is the most serious of cases, which is another reason for dealing with this in particular. I also think there is a restorative justice implication here because, when the of- fender is waiting to be sentenced, he is thinking all about his unhappy childhood, how he was beaten by his father, which caused him to go off the rails and not be able to have proper emotional relationships. He is thinking about all the terrible years in prison that lie ahead of him. He is really thinking about himself, I would imagine. What he does not have is the opportunity to hear, from the persons who are more affected by his crime than he is, about what the effect has been on them.

If there is going to be a moment for a statement in the sentencing process, this is after conviction or a plea of guilty so we are not interfering with the adversarial system. It is inquisitorial when you come to a sentencing exercise.

How should it happen? We are suggesting that it should be for the victim's relatives themselves to choose if they want the CPS to do it. In some cases, the CPS will have formed a very close bond with the family, and it would be natural for the family to ask for the CPS to lead them in giving a statement.

In other cases, the CPS may be the last people on earth that the victim's relatives would like to be their representative. They might want Victim Support to do it. Does it really need to be a legally qualified person? They might have formed a very close relationship with the family liaison person from the police - perhaps they could do it.

I feel very strongly that it is not good enough to have this situation. Sometimes, people intervene from the gallery and shout. They are warned by the judge that this is inappropriate behaviour and if they carry on like that, they will be carted out. They are only trying to break through into a proceeding from which they are wrongfully excluded. I just know that if, perish the thought, something was to happen to any of my immediate family, I would want the opportunity to just say something and not be the only one who did not speak. This is not about increasing sentences.

Marcel Berlins Well, you say that, but is it not designed to affect the sentence in manslaughter, of course, where the sentence is at large and even in murder where it is the recommendation of the judge?

Harriet Harman Practice direction already says that the judge is supposed to take into account the effect of the crime on the victim. In a way, that point has already been passed. The question is: "How does the judge take it into account? Only by the personal statement in writing, or can we do better than that?

The proposal is certainly not motivated by an idea that sentences are too low and we must put sentences up. It is motivated by wanting the court, the defendant and everybody in court to give them the opportunity for a dignified statement.

Shami Chakrabarti I have concerns about this measure and about the underlying trend that it may be seen to be part of. I hear Harriet's assurances about what this is not, but my concern stems from a fundamental view about what the criminal justice system is about in a modern democracy, about why we have something called the criminal justice system and why, in particular, it is distinct from the civil justice system. The civil justice system is about disputes between citizens: "You wronged me and I seek rectitude in law." It is two equal parties against each other seeking redress from the state in an arbitration capacity.

To me, a fundamental of a criminal justice system in a democracy _ and perhaps one that, in recent years, we have been losing sight of with all this rhetoric about rebalancing the criminal justice system - is the notion that there are some wrongs so grave that, when they are perpetrated against one of us, you have in fact wronged all of us.

Therefore, we step collectively into the shoes of the victim, and react as a society as a whole. We act to do justice in the first instance and then, in the sentencing phase, not just to do justice but to protect society as a whole.

There are dangers with departures from that philosophical starting point. The underlying trend of criminal justice policy in recent years is the setting up of victims no longer as people for whom the state steps in to protect on behalf of society, but making them a player, just as they are in a civil dispute.

I do understand the point that is made about the emotional need. That is your best point, if I may say so. People feel excluded. People should not have to participate in a scrum at the court door. There is some emotional need that would help people move on with their lives and I take that point on board.

Whatever the minister says about this not affecting sentencing, if you put it in a sentencing process, this is not some restorative judicial counselling session which takes place elsewhere. The minister, quite deliberately, is putting this into the sentencing process and doing so at a time when, just a few months ago, a chief constable was calling for judges to be placed in league tables depending on how they meet the levels of sentence that they give for various crimes. That is the wider context into which this particular proposal sits.

Marcel Berlins Can I ask, from the point of view of the Crown Prosecution Service, whether you would like that role of introducing this extra element into the system?

Baljit Ubhey I would agree with Shami about emotional need and the expression of that. That definitely does sound right, and I can see the frustrations with the current system in respect of that. I also think that there is an equality and diversity issue around "Will everyone be able to articulate in the same way?". That is a valid point. The motivation is sound, but how this is delivered needs careful thinking about.

Marcel Berlins You would not want to be the person putting that case on behalf of the bereaved parents or whatever, would you?

Baljit Ubhey To some degree, that already does happen with the victim personal statements, so this is not out of kilter with what the Crown Prosecution Service is already doing and the changing role of the CPS. I hear the point about the rhetoric, but there is a need to rebalance and put forward victims' rights. The criminal justice system has not always treated victims or, indeed, witnesses appropriately. This is a role that the CPS is doing to some degree already, and it may be that we can take on board that role.

Marcel Berlins Are you not slipping pretty close to changing the role of the prosecutor by intruding into a process that traditionally - and for very good reason - was not yours?

Baljit Ubhey I think the role of the prosecutor has changed significantly over the past few years, and is continuing to change. That is no bad thing.

Glynis Bliss You cannot underestimate the strength of feeling that families in homicide cases have about their lack of voice, particularly when they have sat through a trial and heard an awful lot about someone that they know and love very well. What they say is that it is almost as if they were talking about a stranger. What they really want to do is to stand up at some time during the trial, let alone after it, and say: "This is not the person I know. You are misrepresenting them." What they really want is an opportunity to stand up and say: "This is character assassination."

Harriet Harman There is an incentive in the current substantive law which actually requires the defendant to trash the victim's character in order to reduce the charge from murder to manslaughter, and [to claim] that there was provocation. I think there is a problem with the substantive law there, which we ought to change.

You have character witnesses on behalf of the offender and, because it is an inquisitorial process at that point, the judge decides what he will take on board or what he will not. It is all right for people to introduce facts or information at that stage on behalf of the offender, but not for there to be any voice from the victim's relatives.

In the past, the Crown Prosecution Service did not even write to a victim to say that a case was being dropped or a charge had been changed. They would read in the newspapers about it. There was big resistance in the CPS: "We cannot write a letter to the victim saying that the case has been dropped. That is not our job. Our job is to prosecute on behalf of the Crown."

Things sometimes feel controversial because they look as though they are impinging on the prosecutorial role, but come to be absolutely standard. Now, everybody in the CPS thinks: "Why on earth were we not doing this previously?" I do not think that people should fear that it is interfering with the prosecutorial role.

I know that everybody is worried about there being huge increases in prison sentences, but the judges have all sorts of pressures from the Daily Mail and everything. Those pressures are there in the system, but I have confidence in the judiciary that they can look at the facts, they can hear the character evidence on behalf of the offender, they can hear all the mitigation by defence counsel. So surely the pillars of the temple are not going to fall down if the judge can actually give a dignified moment to a bereaved mother or widow.

Glen Smyth During the trial, a great deal of evidence will be heard, much of it graphic and disturbing and distressing. The judges have to listen to all of that. Very often in famous cases, before the case is solved and charges are brought, there will be great deal of pub- licity. There will be publicity throughout the trial. The judges have always been able to cope with that. I do not see that there is any wrong in those closest to the victim being able to say what it was like for them. At the end of the day, it is their view that is spread throughout society, which is vital to a criminal justice system that works.

Richard Garside Relatives of victims of homicide can go on for years and years profoundly traumatised, unable to articulate what has gone on, and that can often have profound mental health implications for them. That is a good argument for the state intervening and ensuring that those services are available in a universal way.

That is a different question from whether, in a very emotional state, when somebody has just been found guilty of their loved one's murder, that is an appropriate opportunity for the bereaved to articulate those feelings. My concern is that this is arguably an abuse of that witness's and that family's state of mind at that moment in time.

There is a very good argument for good-quality interventions to help them through their trauma. It does not strike me that the criminal justice system in general, and the court process in particular, is a way of doing that.

Gloria Laycock It is a mistake to assume that the victims would necessarily argue about that. They could talk to Victim Support. But they feel very strongly about the process. You need to separate out the trauma of the event, the murder itself, from the additional trauma of the court process, which actually makes it worse and not better. Those relatives of victims want to be able to say something. One possibility is that they could have an interview with the judge after the whole sentencing process has finished, to say to the judge: "I think this process stinks, quite frankly. The victim's body was kept for a month and I still have not had a proper funeral." There are all sorts of issues that are nothing to do with the sentencing. If there is a conviction for murder, it is life anyway.

Gloria Laycock The few relatives of murder victims that I have spoken to do not discuss the sentence; they discuss the process. They think it is dreadful.

Janet Paraskeva Who are the victims here? What we have done is to expand the number of people in the victim framework. Does the fact that there are relatives of the deceased need to affect the sentence? What is it that is on trial and therefore what is it that the sentence is actually being made against? Does the fact that there are more people involved mean that there should be a longer sentence?

I cannot believe that this will not affect the sentencing in some way or another. I remember the Jamie Bulger episode. Had the impacts on the parents and local community been allowed to intervene in the sentencing process, I wonder, because of the age of the children involved and the impact on the community, whether the judge would have taken a different set of decisions.

Marcel Berlins There are three main issues which we are now going to discuss. The first is the definition of crime. At the moment, we are going through a stage where there seems to be a great blurring between crime and antisocial behaviour. We are starting to conflate the two, to say that antisocial behaviour is as much an affront against society as is crime in the way in which it is usually defined.

Are they really part of the same continuum? Are they susceptible to the same forms of control? We have the Prime Minister talking about respect and how we have to deal with affronts against respect and behaviour. We also have increasing numbers of cases where non-criminal behaviour is being turned into criminal behaviour by means of antisocial behaviour orders (Asbos) and the actions taken against people who breach their Asbos.

To take a not particularly important example, with prostitution, for which you cannot be imprisoned, if you have an Asbo against you and you carry on being a prostitute, you will be in prison for breaching your Asbo. Where along the continuum do we stop and say: "Hold on a minute, this is not susceptible to the same kind of treatment as crime"?

The second thing I would like to discuss is the role of the community. Is there a case for readjusting the balance of control from the official authority - the police, prosecution, courts, prisons - continuum to something else, to something in which the community takes far more direct action? This again gets mixed up with the fear dilemma. What do we do about the lack of public confidence in the system? What do we do about the public fear of crime, where sometimes it is justified and sometimes it is not at all justified?

I think that lies at the basis of one of the things that Glen was talking about. Public confidence in a criminal justice system depends upon the public really knowing what is going on. At the moment, the public does not know what is really going on.

Third, what should be the emphasis of whatever means we use? Should we be more insistent upon prevention? Should we be putting victims first or are we going to keep insisting that society comes first even if the victims get what they might think would be a slightly rougher deal? What about the rights of defendants? Are we in danger of a fundamental shift from the rights of alleged wrongdoers to the rights of society as a whole?

Let us start with this question of crime and antisocial behaviour and whether they are in fact the same, whether we should be treating them in the same way or whether we have got into a mess.

Richard Garside The problem at the moment is that, with so-called antisocial behaviour, there are things that people do which are plainly criminal. If you look at the way that the Antisocial Behaviour Unit categorises antisocial behaviour, one of the antisocial acts is running a crack house. I do not think anybody would want to live down the road from a crack house. It is plainly a criminal activity which the police should be involved in dealing with at some level or other.

You also have things like people playing their stereos too loudly. I do not particularly want to live next door to somebody who plays their stereo loudly every night of the week, but if someone has an occasional loud party, I think we would just accept that that is part of living in modern society. People will occasionally have a loud party. Therefore, I am tolerant of an occasional loud party in a way that I would not be tolerant of a crack house opening up next door to me.

Then you have behaviour that is arguably misdiagnosed - cases of children with autism being given Asbos, of people feeding pigeons who have been given Asbos. We have had cases, as Marcel was mentioning, of women engaged in prostitution being given Asbos. There are all sorts of arguments about how those kinds of behaviour are addressed. Clearly, if someone is mentally distressed, they need help. If someone is involved in prostitution, then they need help and support, not least of all to get away from a very exploitative trade.

Therefore, there are lots of problems in society that need all sorts of interventions, but sticking them all under this big banner and calling it antisocial behaviour is getting in the way of any clear thinking about the problem. It is creating a kind of creeping admission where behaviours that, in the past, would have been considered acceptable and a normal part of growing up are increasingly no longer deemed to be so. There are problems when you conflate the one and the other.

Glen Smyth People who play their music loudly and who become the subject of Asbos just do not do it occasionally; they do it all the time. You talk about prostitutes with an Asbo. It is not just for being a prostitute; it is everything else that goes with it. Not every prostitute becomes the subject of an antisocial behaviour order. There is a lot more to it than that.

Marcel Berlins Are you not being asked to take on a role which does not encompass your usual brief? That is, to deal with people who are not committing crime but who are interfering with the general well-being of others.

Glen Smyth They are making other people extremely ill, in some cases, because of their behaviour. They cannot sleep, they cannot relax and they do not want to be in their own homes. Most people manage to play their stereos without having that impact on people virtually all of the time. There is not a particular criminal sanction for that sort of activity, but perhaps there could be and then it would be dealt with in another way.

Antisocial behaviour is a whole series of behaviours that, on their own, taken individually, or happening occasionally, would not amount to very much. However, they do not happen occasionally. They happen all the time and it makes people ill. Something has to be done about it.

Marcel Berlins Are you happy to use the scarce resources of the police to go down that road rather than, as the onlooker would put it, dealing with "real" crime?

Glen Smyth The thing about antisocial behaviour is that very often the people who are the victims of it are too afraid to come forward and to be witnesses and to give evidence, because they are so cowed by the treatment that they have been subjected to for such a long period of time. They feel disenfranchised. Sometimes, when behaviour is of such a degree, action has to be taken to protect everyone else for the benefit of many. It is very, very sparing and it is not easy to get an antisocial behaviour order. It is extremely difficult.

Jim Skelsey Being in the London Borough of Camden, I would disagree actually. It is not difficult to obtain Asbos, and in court the percentage success rate is in the region of 98.5 per cent. In fact, I would say, they are largely being rubber-stamped in courts. In Camden, where my experience is based, they are quite routinely given to sex workers and that is the extent of their [antisocial] behaviour.

I do think they are quite onerous and draconian. They do not address underlying issues. The definition of an antisocial behaviour order is far too wide. It is any behaviour that causes alarm, distress or harassment. In the cases I deal with, which include begging, street sex work and drug use _ there are not a lot of people who are saying: "We are offended by this behaviour." It is more a decision taken by Camden to push these people out of the borough.

Marion Fitzgerald You do have to bear in mind that alarm, distress and harassment are, of course, very subjective criteria. But there is a danger that we get into polarised positions on this. There is undoubtedly a problem and steps have been taken to address the problem, but as the select committee on antisocial behaviour largely said - although the report tended to ignore it - "Yes, there is a problem, measures have been put in place, they are not all to do with Asbos, they are treated as a virility symbol, there is no evidence as to what impact these are having and there are other ways to skin a cat which are largely being ignored."

All of the evidence said: "We have gone as far as we can and, in many instances, too far with these punitive interventions." What about the medium- to long-term strategies which are needed in the sorts of communities where mostly these are a problem? You can do these sorts of things, but the danger is that you are unnecessarily criminalising young people.

We have to be very, very careful about getting the balance right. We have to look at the responsibility of other agencies in bringing the medium- to long-term strategies into play, which will prevent these sorts of things and which will use the space that has been created by some of these measures to come in with some more positive and constructive ones. Otherwise you are locking yourself into a vicious circle.

Gloria Laycock Coming back to the Home Office's definition - which I think is totally unhelpful - first of all they need to redefine it and not include as antisocial anything that could be construed as criminal. There is a sense in which all crime is antisocial, by definition. It is an unfortunate choice of words, but they need to develop a new category into which things such as neighbourhood disputes will fall.

The question then arises: "What do you do about that?" Can the community in some way deal with that?" That is one of the roads that could be developed. However, to be frank, many of those communities are fractured. There is no such thing as a community. They are full of people who are coming and going. They are transient. They are young. They may be single parents. You cannot expect single parents, who are stressed for various reasons, to deal with the ghastly man next door. So how do you engage the community in this process?

Janet Paraskeva The problem is that we have mixed civil and criminal [justice]. There is a real muddle. It is as if the state is coming in and acting on behalf of some unknown sets of victims to criminalise. What we need to do is have a much clearer and tighter definition of antisocial behaviour. We also need to split the systems. You cannot apply civil court proceedings until you breach, and then you are criminalised in the breach.

Glen Smyth There is merit on both sides, but how many people around this table have had to put up with antisocial behaviour where their lives have been made a misery? You cannot walk along the platform of a local railway station of a sleepy little commuter town like the one I come from without a group of yobs being there threatening passengers, spitting at the guard, throwing litter all over the place, terrorising shopkeepers. That is what is happening and that is why we have to have antisocial behaviour orders.

Marion Fitzgerald Yes, that happens, it is a problem and something needs to be done about it. At the same time, I have watched police officers get out of their car, go up to a group of polite boys standing on a canal bank away from everyone, and say: "Who are you? What are you doing here?" "We are waiting for our friends." "Waiting for your friends? Don't you realise how intimidating this could be? What are your names? Where do you live?" They were then ordered to go home. They weren't doing anything. These things are all happening.

Shami Chakrabarti The level of polarisation on this subject is really unhelpful. On the one hand, we have voices saying that anyone who takes a slightly concerned position about issues of process and definition must be some sort of middle-class person who does not care, and who is practically putting the bricks through the windows themselves. That approach is unhelpful. Equally, I concede that there has never been an absolute line in our tradition between what is completely criminal and what is nuisance. I do think that the definition is unhelpfully broad and dangerous. Behaviour which is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress (distress in particular) is incredibly subjective. A television interviewer once asked the Home Office minister, Hazel Blears: "What does that mean?" She replied: "It means whatever the victim thinks it means." That is dangerous and not a correct approach to crafting laws in a democracy.

There is also concern that this is not just a legal problem; it is partly a political problem, because I am afraid that Louise Casey [from the government's antisocial behaviour unit] has been acting in a very strange way for a senior civil servant. She has been going around the country telling people to issue more Asbos, which is extraordinary, in my experience. She is measuring how many as a matter of success, rather than the qualitative approach about what is happening.

Glynis Bliss From the victims' point of view, they are not interested in any of these arguments that are being expressed. All they want to do is live a safe and reasonable life. No matter what their interpretation [of this] is, it is up to the courts and the people who administer these orders to put the right interpretation on it. If someone is distressed, you take that to court and you test it. That is the right way to do it.

Marion Fitzgerald The question about political pressure has to be very precise. The political pressure attached to this, particularly narrowing down to Asbos being the only tool in the box, has done two things. It has raised public expectations that "I can just call the police and I will get one of those Asbos and that is going to sort it". That is a false promise to the victims anyway, because of the wider issues that go behind the causes of this and whether they are or are not being addressed. Largely, they are not. The other thing that is happening because of the political pressures is that some police forces are now setting targets and, in order to meet their targets, they are going for bolt-on Asbos for young people. There are instances coming to the attention of youth offender teams (YOTs) of first offenders who, because they have breached their Asbos more than once, have ended up in prison. This is now starting to show up in Youth Justice Board statistics, which I analyse. While the overall number of young people supervised by the YOTs has gone up by 7 per cent, the number being supervised by the YOTs for breaching statutory orders has gone up by 36 per cent. I wonder what that is going to look like next year? What are we really gaining?

Glen Smyth Should we not be looking at this from the perspective of the analogy of an illness? In any illness or disease, there are symptoms and we often have to treat the symptoms in different ways that actually do not deal with the illness, and then deal with the illness as well.

Inevitably, it seems to me, you are going to have the immediate need to deal with the symptoms. That is not necessarily what you need to do in the medium-to-long term. It is a bit of both. You are always going to have this conflict.

Baljit Ubhey While there are cases where people have been inappropriately Asboed, there is also a very proportionate response in some areas as to how antisocial behaviour orders are used. Certainly in my area, the Thames Valley, the police do not go directly to an antisocial behaviour order. The desired approach is that this is the last resort. We look at acceptable behaviour contracts and so on.

Harriet Harman If I could just remind everybody to start with the point, "Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime", and just say something about the causes of crime. One of the main reasons for our new deal for the young unemployed, which was one of our absolute first priorities when we came into government, was this. I can remember, before 1997, when unemployment among young people who otherwise were perfectly employable was a huge problem in Peckham, because the economy was not delivering jobs for young people and they were just facing a hopeless future. There was the connection of people having nothing to do and being out on the streets.

One of the points about the government's new deal for the young unemployed was because of the corrosive effect of mass unemployment.

As far as the generation thing is concerned, respect is a two-way street. Young people must be sensitive to the impact that they can have on older people when they go round in groups. If you have a low wall outside sheltered housing and you have 30 kids sitting on it, they may not be evilly motivated, but they are all drinking cans of lager and, in the summer, they are out there until very late at night. They may be chucking their cans into the garden. We should expect young people to be thinking about the effect that their behaviour has on others, but we can also expect older people to recognise that young people do gather together.

On the distinction between the civil jurisdiction and the criminal jurisdiction, the law and the legal pro- cesses are there to serve social objectives and not the other way round. If that means that a magistrate has to take one hat off and use one burden of proof at one stage and one burden of proof at another, that is better. They can work it out, rather than having just individuals who are looking for a remedy from pillar to post. Jurisdictional difference must not become an end in itself.

Shami Chakrabarti I absolutely agree. There should not be a sacred cow at the interface between civil and criminal process. And I absolutely agree that these enterprises and jurisdictions are supposed to serve society's objectives.

The danger in the context of Asbos is twofold and it is a danger to your societal objectives. If parliament has decided, for example, that it is not an imprisonable offence to be a prostitute per se, the danger with allowing what effectively is a bespoke criminal offence - ie, an injunction breach which is a criminal offence - is that at a local level those decisions made by parliament can be circumvented. People are effectively criminalised for behaviour that society as a whole decided should not be imprisonable criminal behaviour.

The second concern for your social objectives is that you are creating a short hop to prison for young people who do not necessarily need to be there. It is one of your government's stated policies and aims to reduce the prison population, particularly in relation to this minor criminal behaviour. The danger is that you circumvent your own policy by creating this whole raft of new criminal behaviour.

Harriet Harman On the question of "Who applies?", an individual might have the resources (mental, physical and financial) to apply to a court to stop a nuisance which is making their life a misery. They would be able to apply to a civil court and they would be able to get an order or an injunction. If that action was persisted in, that person could be sent to prison for contempt of court for breaching been the situation for ages.

Why is it all right if middle-class people do it and they can get their rights protected and enforced? However, if a working-class community is having huge difficulties, why can we not enable the local authority or the police or other people who are supposed to be public services to actually do that for them? In any system, there will be situations where people overstep their powers and use them wrongly. We do not support that. That is not what it is for.

There is concern on both sides of the argument put here about the ease with which Asbos are or are not granted. The point is that we have to look and see what is going on. We have to make sure that the systems work sensibly. The idea that the criminal law cannot deal with subjective [matters] is wrong. They have to deal with the mens rea. They have to deal with people's intentions, let alone the actual effect on a victim.

Marcel Berlins Is the public confident that Asbos are helping?

Gloria Laycock They are irrelevant, because most of the public are not in this situation. The people who need Asbos are the people who live in these ghastly estates, who are really disadvantaged on all sorts of levels and have, on top of everything else, this behaviour to deal with. It seems to me that, in their place, Asbos are probably a good idea.

When they first came out, the police I spoke to said to me: "It is absolutely great. We have not issued any Asbos. What we have to do to get an Asbo is to sit round the table with social services and every other which person and discuss this child's behaviour. That process helped us to identify what the problems are; and we can actually help them." They were saying: "Asbos are great, but you do not issue them."

The government then said: "How many Asbos have you issued?" and they turned it into a target as though that was the way to deal with antisocial behaviour. The problem with Asbos is the target. If the government set a target for acceptable behaviour contracts, I would be very interested to see if they then went up because (a) they are positive, and (b) they do not link to the criminal justice system.

Because Asbos have become such an issue, and the press are always going on about them, it takes the focus off all of these other things such as the acceptable behaviour contracts and clubs for kids.

Janet Paraskeva I absolutely agree with Harriet's point about not just middle-class people being able to bring cases. We need some way in which the state can intervene. We need to remember though that the people they are intervening against are also people from exactly the same communities who need the Asbos in the first place. As ever, we are not actually looking at poverty as one of the prime forces. The government has done some things to address it. Some of them have been long-term things which politicians do not often do, and that is to be applauded. However, we need to do much more of that long-term planning.

There are no short-term solutions, except that there might be some short quick wins in definitions and in clearer guidance. We need to have some kind of intervention much, much sooner in young people's programmes. There is something about reclaiming the community for the communities that Asbos are not quite hitting. Asbos have a place in there, but one size does not fit all.

Marcel Berlins We now turn to the subject of joined-up criminal justice. This time, we are not posing problems, but trying to seek solutions. What does joined-up justice actually mean, in the way in which it is being used? Is it just a nice name for "The police and the social workers should talk to each other more", or is it something that can really add to the way in which we deal with crime and antisocial behaviour in our society?

Richard Garside At one level, it is just about different agencies that already work together working together better. There are good arguments in favour of doing that, but there are some concerns.

We see this in the debate about the merging of the prison service and the probation service. There are concerns that two very different services, both operating to a very different ethos for very good reasons, are being put into some kind of cut-and-shut policy. The other side of that is this. One of the criticisms in the home affairs select committee's report into antisocial behaviour is that social services and local government departments have not been good enough at getting on board with the government's antisocial behav- iour agenda.

But there are very good reasons why social services, housing associations, housing agencies, local authorities and others may be concerned about going down a quasi-criminal justice route. One of the questions about joined-up justice is who is joining up with whom and whose overall organisation is going to inform that joined-upness? At the moment, it does appear that the joined-upness is very much the criminal justice agencies working outwards in trying to draw other agencies in, whereas arguably we should be looking for a mixed economy and a much more diverse approach.

Marion Fitzgerald That is spot on and those are the points I would have made. If you look overall at the question of crime, politicians always fall into the trap of promising that the criminal justice system is going to deal with it. If you take the thing in the round, take economic trends and their relationship to crime and so on, we know that the role of the criminal justice system is pretty minimal. It has a role, but we over-inflate it and a lot comes from other agencies, from social policies, education and health. A lot has been done to try and make those links. One of the biggest ideas of this government was that partnership, but I have some concern that it was expected to deliver far too much far too soon, without sufficient appreciation of how long it would take to get over the culture clashes. The danger is that they are going to be left to wither on the vine.

Part of the problem as well is that, at the same time, everybody has wanted their own multi-agency partnerships. The first annual report of the National Evaluation of the Children's Fund estimates that, by 2002, at least 60 types of public-policy partnerships have been created since 1997, involving 5,500 local or regional partnerships, with 75,000 board places to be occupied.

If we say: "Yes, we need more joined-up justice and we need another one of these", you get the core agencies - all of whom ought to be operating in an environment where they are better able to co-operate to do their own job well - trying to find added value in their relationships with others. They are all being set different targets by different departments, which are often incompatible. They are also struggling to do their core jobs and deliver their core service, often with very little increase in their core budgets, but lots of Mickey Mouse top-up money for short-term projects which are the particular whim of the minister passing through at the time.

Meanwhile, they are also having time taken out of their day-to-day work by running from one meeting to another, to yet another partnership where they meet the same people wearing different hats. It does not make sense.

Marcel Berlins Is there a solution to this? Should there be a criminal justice tsar?

Marion Fitzgerald Or tsarina. We do need good working partnerships. It has to be bottom-up and responsive to local needs with more power to the relevant local agencies within a consistent overall national framework, which is achievable. We need a rationalisation of the partnerships that currently exist and we need the criminal justice system to be a core part of those key rationalised partnerships, but not necessarily to lead and to dominate.

Janet Paraskeva When you build an IT system, the first thing you have to do is to "specify" the thing. When IT systems fail, they fail because they have not specified every entity involved and every relationship between them. We have never actually specified what we need, what we mean and what the relationships are, one to the other. It takes time, it takes money, it means coming outside of the system and it takes a lot of drive and a lot of effort.

If we do not do that, we cannot help by having 60 sets of well-meaning people all reinventing what they reinvented in the group before, because nobody has been given that task. I am not suggesting for a moment that we get in one of the big firms of consultants to do it for us - the traditional response in IT - or invent another tsar.

Paula Sussex This is the first time, in about 20 years' worth of public-sector reform, that I have seen effective change take place at the heart of it. Generally, we are seeing a sea-change in attitudes within the criminal justice organisations. We are starting to see coherent change right at the centre of government, with the Office for Criminal Justice Reform and the Criminal Justice IT programme. There is a proliferation of bodies out there and a proliferation of targets, and they are not always consistent. But it is a start and local criminal justice boards, spawned by that arrangement, are starting to show joined-upness on the ground as well.

Gloria Laycock I think the Office for Criminal Justice Reform is great. It is a really good step in the right direction. The idea of the IT programme is great. It will be a first if they manage to deliver it, but the principle is a good one. The mistake is to think that they can deliver crime control. They cannot. They can deliver justice and they will be doing ever so well if they do that, but there is not a lot of feeling that there is a lot of justice in the system. I think it is a huge muddle and the government colludes with it.

All governments have always colluded with saying that the criminal justice system can deliver crime control. It can contribute to it. It is necessary that it exists, but it is not the primary means of delivering it. I think the crime and disorder reduction partnerships (CDRPs) do. I think the Crime and Disorder Act is an absolutely stunning act. The government's impatience with it is scary because what they ought to do is invest in training at that front end. I say this because we do the training at University College London, and I nag the Home Office because they will not spend money on raising the skills base so that the people at community level can do the crime prevention that would head off all these people heading for the criminal justice system.

Baljit Ubhey I partly agree about the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, and would highlight what a big sea-change that is, but also what a long way we have to go to be truly joined up. All the agencies that sit round the tables at the local criminal justice boards are going through huge changes. With the Crown Prosecution Service, we have taken over the role of charging from the police. That is a massive cultural change between our organisations. There is witness care and our involvement in that. There is the unified court system, prison and probation. That is a lot of pain and culture shift for that organisation.

All these organisations are going through all this change and then trying to work together, but the fundamental reality is that we do not have harmonised targets. Some are inherently in conflict. Certain police targets do not actually tie up with CPS targets. The Office for Criminal Justice Reform and local criminal justice boards are a positive start, but there is an awful lot more to do for those organisations to be working well. It is actually getting people on the ground working well together, too, that will really deliver the change. Sometimes, we are a long way off from that.

Glen Smyth The UK Police Service and the Metropolitan Police Service, in particular, have been going through significant change. There are a number of things that are good, but also there are things that concern us. It is right that we have to be able to justify what we do and why we do it and to be measured against performance. Sometimes, it is the number of things that you have done as opposed to the quality. Quality seems to be the one issue that cannot be measured. How many people have you arrested for shoplifting? That is performance. However, any interaction with the public that does not result in a criminal sanction of whatever kind does not get measured.

It is the quality of the daily interactions that fills the public with confidence. That is something that has largely been ignored by successive governments of whatever hue. It has largely been ignored by senior police officers.

The police are very important, but no more important than the education that is available to the schoolchildren probably who are coming on, the provision of mental health services and the mental health side of things. All these things are important to us, but in terms of measuring quality, you always have to have an output apparently to justify an investment. Sometimes, it is very difficult to measure that. That is a huge frustration for the police.

The only restorative justice prison in the country is called Grendon, at Aylesbury. What they do there in terms of trying to turn round prolific long-term offenders is remarkably successful, but it is much more expensive than most of the others in the country. What is it going to deliver? Probably, people who are less likely to commit crime in the future.

Marcel Berlins Yes, but a few dozen people compared with . . .

Glen Smyth . . . with a prison population of 76,000. The one frustration that prison officers have is that the restorative element, which is what the penal system should be about, is too little too late. They feel that the people are lost to them by the time they get them. They can turn them around. Particularly with young offenders' institutions, they feel that they have been very lucky, but it is so unusual.

Glynis Bliss On a positive note, there have been tremendous positive changes. What we have seen in the past few years with victims and witnesses, particularly through better use of technology and more joined-up work, is tremendous. At local level, what we are also seeing is enormous fatigue. There is partnership fatigue, consultation fatigue and focus fatigue. There is an enormous amount of goodwill. When you talk to people individually, they want to do an excellent job, they want to work with their partner agencies, and we have policies, the practice and the processes to do it. However, at coalface level, when you are out there working, you are too tired most of the time.

What that is doing, in some cases, is creating more divisions because people are beginning to have a bit of a blame culture: "It is not my fault I did not hit this target. It is her fault." There is a danger, with all this good work and all this good intention, of actually, at ground-floor level, forcing people apart.

Paula Sussex I quite agree. There is tremendous overload and pressure just coming from these initiatives. Joined-upness is a trade-off between what was perceived to be a failure of process and getting people through to the system, and their potentially being rehabilitated. At the other end of the system - where there might be a second phase of joined-up justice - we do not have people coming out of the corrective systems and going straight into programmes which are going to rehabilitate them. You have to trade off this virtual organisation, the pain it goes through, and the lack of ability. You cannot harmonise all of the objectives for all the criminal justice agencies, so it is an imperfect "we think on balance this is the right thing to do" - finding a way through.

Maybe it is time to take the foot off the pedal a little bit and let things work their way through. A lot of what has been put in is probably the right direction of travel.

Shami Chakrabarti This is a discussion that ministers need to hear. There is a concern about the politicisation of criminal justice policy. What I hear from people who work within the system is that the politicisation, the targets and, frankly, the back-covering and the blaming are not helpful either. It is worrying that some chief constables now feel that they have to be like junior ministers, and go on the offensive before somebody has a go at them for not meeting their targets.

That is not a political culture that is going to aid a joined-up criminal justice system. The new initiative that will be announced in the autumn is another new initiative, possibly with more legislation, more meetings, more training, more guidance, which is a possible distraction from what we have been discussing. What could happen is that they could take the pedal off a little bit in terms of the politicisation.

Gloria Laycock There is a slight danger that there will be so much government effort trying to get processes right, as though, once the criminal justice system is working super-duper, somehow the crime problem will go away. It will not. The word "respect" is really important and it applies at every level. The government does not respect chief constables, for example. If they respected them, they would leave them alone to do their job properly, instead of imposing more and more targets on them. If they are not doing their job, just sack them, but if they are, leave them to do it.

There is an obsession with micro-management, which does come from Downing Street, particularly on home affairs. Interestingly, I think the only bit of government that has done really well is the Treasury, and that is the bit that Tony Blair has kept his fingers off, because Gordon Brown would bite them if he tried. It is a real problem. You have the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit crawling all over us. What is all that all about?

Marion Fitzgerald That part of the solution has to be joined-up government. We have people building their own empires, we are having turf wars between different departments, each wanting its own local partnership, wanting to set its own targets and competing for resources from the Treasury. It would be useful if the Treasury were to say: "One of the main things we are going to judge you on is the extent to which you are prepared to get the agencies that work for you at ground level to work together."

That is why the Audit Commission reviewed the juvenile justice system, highlighting what was needed on the ground. Health and education, in particular, are not players.

Marcel Berlins In other words, a tsar or a tsarina, because how else are we going to impose this? Clearly, they are not doing it themselves inter-departmentally.

Marion Fitzgerald Where is the overall thinking going to come from? The obvious point to locate it, because money is so important here, would be the Treasury. One point we need to take into account is that there has been a major shift in the relationship between central and local government over the past 20 years. Local government was decimated. There was a degree of centralisation that was inimical to getting the right messages across, getting the right sort of moderation and getting the right sort of dialogue going that would hold in check some of the more seriously ill-informed initiatives. They are now finding that this is rebounding on them and they do not know what to do about it.

Glen Smyth You are right about that central control. We saw it in the police reformat when the then home secretary wanted more and more power over chief officers. One of the bases upon which policing has worked quite well is the fact that the direction of the police force is independent of political control. It is important that it sits independently. The executive makes the laws, the police have to investigate and produce evidence, the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutes and the judges judge. That is where it should be kept.

Shami Chakrabarti I absolutely agree. The command and control theory, in the concept of criminal justice, is dangerous. I am not saying that this government wants a police state or that this government would interfere in individual criminal cases, but you are in danger of changing the tradition and changing the constitutional paradigms to a situation where that would be possible in the future. Equally, this command and control approach in the criminal justice system comes from the politicisation. Politicians have made promises and now they have to start interfering with individual chief constables, or the judiciary.

Baljit Ubhey My organisation has changed tremendously in its short existence, from one that got a lot of flak to one that is now taking its right place in the criminal justice system. There was a degree of complacency. We did not look at how we were actually doing. Were we reviewing the cases properly? Were we sending letters to victims as we should? We are measuring those things now, and I think that some targets are absolutely right and proper. Community engagement is key for the CPS, and is another big change.

We never used to do community engagement. Now we do, and we are held to account. I still think that there is a need for harmonisation. While you may not have complete harmonisation, minimising where there is conflict between some of the key criminal justice agencies will really help joined- up working.

There are some very good initiatives out there. Lawyers are being involved in charging, and getting the charge right first time has got to be good for everyone. There should be more contact with victims in terms of how the case is progressing and what their needs are. There is the effective trial management programme, with a trial actually going ahead when it is supposed to.

Actually implementing them and making them work locally means that there is an awful lot of work to do. For them to bed down and work on the ground will take time and resourcing. The Office for Criminal Justice Reform should focus on that. We do not need new initiatives. We have got some cracking ideas. Let us really make them happen.

Gloria Laycock One other thing. It seems to me that the government does not really understand targets. They should use them far more to shape organisations' behaviour. For example, the CPS send these letters out. The effect of that will be to change the culture in the Crown Prosecution Service so that of course you send letters out. You then do not need to carry on measuring letter-counting. That is taking a much more strategic view of setting targets.

Marcel Berlins I am afraid I have to bring this to an end now. It has been absolutely fascinating. Thank you very much.

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