The BBC produced a ground breaking documentary series in January 2020 called “Crime – Are We Tough Enough?”.
Taking as its starting point two people with quite opposing ideas about the Criminal Justice System’s future.
The series featured Chris Daw QC; one of the country’s most eminent criminal defence barrister, and Ayesha Nayyar, (the Law Society’s Sole Practitioner of the Year) a prosecution solicitor, who both examine different solutions to the UK’s Criminal Justice System at a time when many people believe there is a law and order crisis.
Ayesha who is thinks the system should be prosecuting more, getting higher conviction rates and sending those found guilty to prison for longer.
Chris, on the other hand, thinks we’re already doing all that – and it’s not working. He thinks we need to be sending fewer people to jail and for less time. Instead, he believes, the legal system needs to look at solutions that can keep people out of the courts in the first place – namely regulating drugs. Both get a chance to meet with people inside prison and youth offenders centres, where therapy and hopeful reform is practiced whilst their penal punishment is met.
Ayesha visits Lowestoft to meet Adele Bellis, who was attacked by a man at a bus stop with acid. However, after suffering months recovering in hospital, it was her experience of going through the courts that left her with psychological scars as bad as those on her face. Not only was she called a liar in court, but her attacker got out after two years and is now free to move back to the area. She doesn’t think she got anywhere near justice.
Chris visits Manchester Crown Court where he explains why both sides – including those accused of crime – need to be fairly represented in court. There he meets a former Chief Prosecutor for the North of England, who agrees with Chris that long sentences do not lead to less crime.
In the second half of the episode, Chris sends Ayesha to meet former undercover drugs cop Neil Woods, who now thinks that all drugs should be legalised. Only then, he argues, will you take the market off organised crime and reduce the violence that comes with the billion-pound market.
Ayesha sends Chris to meet former front line police officer, Norman Brennan, who agrees with her when it comes to cracking down on crime. He thinks the CPS should be renamed the Criminal Protection Service and argues that defence lawyers like Chris are “part of the problem”.
At the end of the week they both provide their case in front of a panel of people previously met in the programme or who are involved in reducing Crime who listen to both Chris and Ayesha’s testimony to then vote on either verdict.
As a bonus, another programme, BBC Panorama “How Scotland Cut Crime” is included where the Violent Reduction Scheme; featured in the programme, is examined more closely .