Public confidence in criminal justice system

Criminal Justice System

Public Confidence in the Criminal Justice System

This Home Office survey, conducted
by MORI, measures public confidence in the criminal justice system (CJS). During
February and March 2003, researchers carried out interviews with 2,001 people aged 16 and over in England and Wales.
They evaluated public attitudes to and perceptions of the CJS and its constituent agencies
(eg, the police, prison and probation services, courts and the Crown Prosecution Service),
identifying levels of confidence and satisfaction.

Title: Public Confidence in the Criminal Justice System
Author:
The
Research Development and Statistics Directorate (RDS)

Series:
Findings 221
Date published:
June 2004
Number of pages:
6

Key points

  • People are generally more confident about the way crime is dealt with locally,
    compared to
    nationally

  • Confidence in the way crime is being dealt with, both locally and nationally, is highest for those aged 16–34, and lowest for those aged 55 or over.

  • The essential CJS functions which respondents identified, but in which they had low
    confidence were: 

    • creating a society where people felt safe

    • reducing the level of crime

    • stopping offenders from committing more crime

    • dealing effectively with street robbery (including muggings)

    •  bringing people who commit crimes to justice.

  • When asked what would convince respondents that crime was being dealt with more effectively, the most frequent answer
    was ‘an increased police presence’ (27%); followed by ‘a reduction in crime rates’
    (20%) and ‘more severe sentencing’ (14%).

  • Factors associated most strongly with public confidence in crime being dealt with were:

    • At the local level: 
      – promptness and efficiency of the system; 
      – the level of deprivation where the respondent lives;
      – effectiveness of the CJS in dealing with violent crime; 
      – whether the respondent had been a victim of crime;
      – whether the system is creating a society where people feel safe.

    • At the national level: 
      effectiveness of the system in dealing with violent crime; 
      – the age of the respondent; 
      – whether the system is bringing people who commit crime to justice; 
      – whether the CJS is creating a society where people feel safe.

Level of confidence in the CJS

Respondents were positive about how crime is dealt with
locally, with 63% who are very or fairly confident. 
At
national level, overall 47% were very/fairly confident in how crime is being dealt with in England and Wales generally .

Key functions of the CJS

Respondents rated 20 CJS functions of the in terms of their importance on a scale of 1–10. 

‘Treating people fairly regardless of race’ was rated as absolutely essential, and was also a function of the
CJS in which respondents had a relatively high level of confidence.

‘Dealing with violent crime and with sex offenders’ was deemed to be absolutely essential,
also received some confidence. 

Five functions highlighted as being absolutely essential, which had low levels of confidence
were:

  • creating a society where people feel safe

  • reducing the level of crime

  • stopping offenders from committing more crime

  • dealing effectively with street robbery (including mugging)

  • bringing people who commit crimes to justice.

Key factors which influence levels of confidence in the CJS

When asked what would convince respondents that crime was being dealt with more effectively, they
implied:

  • an increased police presence (27%)

  • a reduction in crime rates (20%) 

  • more severe sentencing (14%)

  • more arrests/detection (6%)

  • communication between the police and communities (6%)

  • a more impartial/less hysterical media approach (5%).

Conclusion

From this evidence, public levels
of confidence in the way crime is dealt with varies depending on a local or

national context. People were
generally more positive
about their local
situation, than across the country as a
whole. This
reflects findings from the
2002/2003 British Crime
Survey. 
 

A number of key factors were identified as driving overall levels of
confidence. By creating a society where people feel safe, and by dealing
effectively with violent crime, confidence in the system overall, both
nationally and locally, would increase.

Download ‘Public Confidence in the Criminal Justice System’
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Last update: 16 July 2004

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