What do people get wrong about crime in Britain?

21 November

The main thing is that people think they’re far more likely to be a victim than they actually are.

We probably have a legacy of people being more afraid of crime than they need to be. From the 90s onwards, crime became such a political issue, and was used as a key component of every election campaign up until 2015. People also hear more about crimes because of rolling news and social media, whereas once they might not have known about them.

People also have a sense that sentences handed down by judges are too lenient. In fact, in exercises where the public are given a sample case to consider, and asked which sentence they’d give, it transpires that, in reality, the judges were often much harsher.

There’s a lot of hysteria around crime. In Manchester recently there was much media coverage around leniency of sentences generally, and the police issuing cautions rather than prosecuting in cases of sexual assault. Following rather hysterical headlines, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester put out a statement making it clear that in many of these cases the offences weren’t as serious as originally reported, or the perpetrator was a child, and maybe it wasn’t in anyone’s interests to prosecute an 11-year-old.

"Which age group do you think is most likely to be murdered? The answer might surprise you"

Another misconception is around who’s most likely to be a victim of crime. There’s so much attention targeted at young women, and how they should behave to avoid being a victim, when statistically young men are far more likely to be victims. Men as a whole are also more likely to be murdered than women. Most murders are carried out by someone you know, but with women who are murdered it’s even more likely to be somebody they know.

Here’s a question I often use with my students: Which age group do you think is most likely to be murdered? It might surprise you to know that it’s children under the age of one, by their parents or carers.

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