Kenneth Clarke Is “Worst Home Secretary Ever” Says CIVITAS
If Home Secretaries are judged by the amount of crime during their time in office then Kenneth Clarke must rank as the worst Home Secretary ever, CIVITAS think tank director Dr David Green has said.
Writing in a briefing note called “The Potential Consequences of Kenneth Clarke's Crime Policy,” Dr Green drove home the savage attack on the Tory Home Secretary by pointing out that Mr Clarke “held the office from April 1992 to May 1993 when crime was higher than it had ever been before and has ever been since.”
Dr Green, formerly of the Institute of Economic Affairs, went on to say that from Mr Clarke’s “comments this week, he has learnt little from his time at the Home Office in the 1990s.
“He now argues for reducing the prison population by lowering the number of offenders sentenced to prison and reducing long sentences. Why, he asks, is the prison population twice what it was when he was last at the Home Office in 1993?
“His time at the Home Office coincided with the highest police-recorded crime figures ever, and the increase was in large measure the result of the policies he and his predecessors pursued,” Dr Green said.
“Repeat cautions were preferred to custody, the 1991 Criminal Justice Act required judges to give less weight to previous convictions when sentencing criminals, car theft had been downgraded in importance and early release at the half-way stage of sentences under four years was made automatic.
“Despite huge increases in crime the average prison population was reduced from nearly 50,000 in 1988 to 44,500 in 1993. Recorded crime surged by over 20 percent during the early 1990s, from 4.544 million crimes in 1990 to 5.592 million in 1992. It took until 1997 to get it back down to 4.598 million by putting an additional 15,000 career criminals behind bars,” he said.
The briefing paper pointed out Mr Clarke’s core strategy of releasing criminals and cutting the prisons budget would be a false economy.
“If Mr Osborne is tempted by Mr Clarke's offer to cut the prison budget, he should realise that cutting the £2.2 billion cost of the prison service would be a false economy,” Dr Green continued.
“From time to time the Home Office has made estimates of the total social and economic costs of crime, including the insurance and security measures we have to pay for, the cost of personal injuries and lost property, and the additional costs to the criminal justice system of allowing repeat criminals the freedom to carry on offending.
“What would be the cost of releasing a criminal from jail who would otherwise be committing offences. The total social and economic cost of crimes against individuals and households in 2003-04 was £36.2 billion and there were 12.168 million crimes against individuals and households, an average cost of £2,972 per crime.
“A Home Office survey of offenders being admitted to prison in 2000 found that they committed on average 140 crimes per year. If the average cost of each crime was £2,900 then the total annual cost would be £406,000. Compared with the cost of prison the saving is vast.
“The annual cost of a prison place in 2008-09 according to the prison service annual report was £29,561. But £406,000 is the cost to society as a whole. What about the cost to the Government?
“Twenty percent of the total social and economic cost was incurred by the criminal justice system, £7.1 billion, including the cost of policing and processing and re-processing offenders through the courts. The average cost per crime just counting those costs would be £594, which means that the annual cost to the criminal justice system of an offender carrying out 140 crimes per year would be £83,200.
“Much of the health care cost in patching up people who have been harmed by criminals would also fall on the NHS, estimated at another 7 percent by the Home Office, a total annual cost of £2.4 billion — on its own more than the total cost of the prison service (£2.2 billion).
“Another 12 percent was the result of lost output, £4.3 billion. If criminals are released and crime increases the lost output would reduce tax revenues,” Dr Green said.