The Home Office recently reported that the total number of arrests has fallen from 1.5 million in 2008 to 779,660 in 2017 (a total drop of 48%). In fairness to the police, it should be acknowledged that making an arrest is not a prerequisite for an offence to be properly investigated. In many cases arrest is not only unnecessary but also undesirable, particularly when considering the consequences for a suspect who acquires an ‘arrest record’ even if they are never charged. This issue is being increasingly recognised by the police through suspects being interviewed on a voluntary basis, which avoids the need for detention as well as the stigma of an arrest.
It is also correct to say that the Home Office has encouraged other forms of responding to crime, such as community resolutions, which keep offenders away from courts and prisons. However, the connection between such disposals and the decision whether to arrest a suspect in the first place is unclear.
Overall, the statistics are fairly stark. Despite the shift in attitude towards voluntary interviews and new means of disposal, one would still expect arrests to have moved in the same direction as reported crime, albeit hopefully to a lesser extent. The former has plummeted while the latter has grown. The most obvious and unfortunate causative factor must be the continuing diminution of police resources.
Nick Barnard, Associate, Corker Binning, WC2