Cracking down on career criminals’

EIGHTY per cent of crimes in Cambridgeshire are committed by persistent offenders, who are to be targeted by the criminal justice system. That is one of three priorities for Cambridgeshire s Chief Constable, Julie Spence, who took over as chairman of the

EIGHTY per cent of crimes in Cambridgeshire are committed by persistent offenders, who are to be targeted by the criminal justice system.

That is one of three priorities for Cambridgeshire's Chief Constable, Julie Spence, who took over as chairman of the county's criminal justice board this week.

According to the police, of the 150 people in the force area identified as persistent and prolific offenders, 33 were in Huntingdonshire and Fenland.

They were estimated to account for more than 50,000 offences committed since last April - 12,600 of them in Huntingdonshire and Fenland.


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However, Mrs Spence has promised that when these offenders are released from prison, the criminal justice system would make sure they do not go uncontrolled.

Mrs Spence has succeeded chief prosecutor Richard Crowley, who has chaired the board - made up of the courts service, CPS, police, probation, youth offending service and prisons - for two years.

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"Twenty per cent of offenders do 80 per cent of crime," Mrs Spence said. "Those who were put away two years ago have just come out, and we need to ensure the prisons are talking to the probation service and probation are talking to us, and the police are talking to the courts, so we can keep track of them.

"We must not allow them to be uncontrolled."

Her other priority areas are with witnesses and victims, and in appropriate sentencing, she said.

"If you don't have witnesses, who may also be victims, engaged with the process, you don't get justice. They need to tell us what happened for us to arrest offenders.

"And victims need confidence that the criminal justice system will do what it can.

"But they need to understand what it can do, so that their expectations are realistic."

While the system pursues major criminals to recover the proceeds of crime, low-level offenders' assets also need to be targeted by the courts, Mrs Spence said.

"Their biggest asset is time, and that needs to be reinvested in the community. One of my commanders got a round of applause recently when he explained that youngsters were working back in the community repairing the damage they had done."

She said the people of Cambridgeshire had one of the highest levels of confidence in the criminal justice system of any of the country's 42 areas.

"We're in the top four in the country, and there's a real working together in the interests of justice.

"That's not to say we can't do better and we are striving to do that."

Mrs Spence said it was too soon to detect what effects changes to means-testing of legal aid were having. Defence solicitors fear offenders are pleading guilty when they should not, because they cannot afford lawyers' fees.

"A crime-reduced society comes at a cost," she said. "Justice is never free. It's about managing a finite pot of money fairly and equitably.

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