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News - 12 March 2011
New sentencing system could reduce punishment for shoplifting
Prison might not be an option for 'low-level' offences like shoplifting if a new scheme being developed in Cambridge is adopted. It aims to dramatically reduce the number of people being sent to prison for offences that are not considered harmful.
Peter Neyroud, until recently the CEO of the National Policing Improvement Agency and Lawrence Sherman, Wolfson professor of Criminology at Cambridge University are working on the scheme which aims to relate punishment to the level of harm done rather than simply counting the number of offences.
Under the Crime Harm Index (CHI) currently being piloted, a crime - such as murder - which is assessed as doing a lot more harm than another - such as shoplifting - would carry more weight. The index would predict the harm likely to be caused by individual offenders and this would be used to determine sentencing policy.
Cambridge University's statistical laboratory is designing an automated system which will be able to forecast how much harm each arrested person is likely to cause over the next two years. Upon arrest criminals would be classified into one of three groups. Those who are considered to be a minimal risk to others committing crimes such as shoplifting, being drunk and disorderly and minor assault would be assumed to have blundered into a life of crime or made one big mistake they are unlikely to repeat. They are "not bad enough to waste money prosecuting".
Out of the roughly 750,000 offenders dealt with each year, Neyroud estimates that perhaps 75% of all offenders fall into this category. They would be referred to an offender management team of trained police and partner agencies with a range of interventions at their disposal including treatment for drugs or mental illness, curfews, restorative justice and close monitoring by the police.
Read the rest of this item from BrightonBusiness.co.uk here
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