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   Inside Out - North West: Monday 27th January, 2003

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN MERSEYSIDE

Frank Flood talks to victims of crime
DEBATE | an offender talks to victims of crime in Merseyside
A FORMER OFFENDER ON CRIME
A VICTIM ON THEIR EXPERIENCE
  REALPLAYER REQUIRED

In Liverpool, there is a real drama about the kind of punishment burglars should receive.

Inside Out introduces offenders to victims of crime to discuss 'soft sentences'.

This controversy over crime punishment was sparked by Lord Justice Woolf’s guidelines. He suggests that some offenders could receive a community order rather than a prison sentence.

David Smith, from the Probation Service says, "There are a number of people who feel anyone who commits a crime should go to prison."

"But it’s been proved over and over again that people go to prison and the great majority commit crime and go back to prison."

"We need to get to the root of the problem."

Community sentences

Frank Flood
Frank flood committed crime to feed a drug habit

The Drug Treatment and Testing order is a five days a week community sentence order.

Compulsory counselling, strict drugs tests and creative drama lesson are all part of the course.

One advocate for such sentences is former career criminal Frank Flood.

At 40 years old he has 64 previous convictions.

Frank spent 10 years in prison but only managed to turn his life around after being placed on the drug and testing order. 2 years later, he's a changed man.

Changed man

Frank is also attending college to become a drugs counsellor and works with local charities.

Frank appreciates how victims of crime feel. He says, "It’s a natural human instinct to want revenge, want justice."

But he also criticises prison, "I got more education in the criminal system in jail. I went in a petty criminal and was robbing banks in five years."

Victims

Offenders such as Frank are in favour of these sentences because they are an alternative to spending time behind bars.

Joan from Liverpool
Joan looks on as Frank performs in a play with fellow offenders

But the innocent people who have had their homes and property violated may not agree.

Inside Out took some Liverpool crime victims to see a drama production by Frank’s group.

One of them was Joan - a victim of burglary.

Before she saw the drama group, Joan commented, "At the time you just think ‘if they could be caught and make go to prison."

But Joan's views changed after seeing the Probation Services’ work and chatting to Frank.

She says of prison sentences for burglars and thieves, "It depends why they did it and what type of person they are."

"I think a lot more needs to be done to try and segregate these people and give them help."

Future

Joan’s reaction will not be echoed by all crime victims - particularly those who can’t get the memories of their ordeal our of their minds.

But with prisons facing an overcrowding crisis and Lord Woolf’s ruling standing, community orders could prove to be a viable alternative to time behind bars.

See also ...

On bbc.co.uk
Lord Woolf
Burglary sentences row

On the rest of the web
Crime reduction
Merseyside Police

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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