Headlines: August 31st, 2000

The National Audit Office has launched two studies which will provide a framework for a total re-think about crime and how the Government should respond to it. The timing of the launch and the reporting timescale show clearly that if Labour secures a second term, crime will share the top spot in the reform agenda with health. Assuming a Spring 2001 General Election, interim findings from the studies will be available in time to frame a manifesto commitment. The full reports, when published later in the year, are expected to provide more than adequate justification for re-thinking the objectives and roles of the police and prison services. There is also speculation that a new Home Secretary would be necessary to push though sweeping reforms, particularly in view of the power exerted by professional bodies.Responsibility for reviewing the work of police services is laid to the Audit Commission, but these reviews are being conducted by the National Audit Office, because it is the Home Office’s approach to crime that is under scrutiny and not the way policies are implemented.

The first study will focuses on the role of the Home Office and its agencies in promoting effective approaches to crime detection by police forces. It will also examine how effectively the Home Office monitors and benchmarks the detection performance of Police Forces. The second study will examine whether the Prison Service has researched and assessed the benefits of programmes in relation to re-offending, and whether the programmes are being delivered in accordance with good practice. Both reviews are under the direction of Peter Gray and this indicates joined up thinking about the whole process of criminal behaviour.