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News – Turning a blind eye

October 2008

Turning a blind eye


Calls have been made for radical changes to policing and the UK’s legal system following research showing that British people are the least likely in Europe to be ‘have-a-go heroes’ and get involved if they witness a crime. The public policy group Reform says that Britons have become ‘passive bystanders’ in the fight against crime.

     Reform says the UK has the world’s most expensive justice system, but people abdicate responsibility to politicians, police and the courts. It calls for initiatives to get the public more involved in crime prevention, such as regionalised criminal justice policies and televised court proceedings.

     The report quotes a survey which studied public perception of anti-social behaviour in six European countries – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. It found six out of 10 of the people questioned in the UK would be unlikely to challenge a group of 14-year-old boys vandalising a bus shelter – more than any other country surveyed. In Germany, six out of 10 said they would challenge the group.

     The same survey, which questioned about 1000 people aged 16-64 in each country in January 2006, asked: ‘Who is responsible for controlling anti-social behaviour?’ In the UK, the police and courts were held responsible by 76% of people surveyed – the highest percentage of the countries involved. The corresponding figures were about 45% for Germany, France and the Netherlands.

     In Germany, about half of those questioned said tackling anti-social behaviour was the responsibility of teachers and the community. But in every country, parents topped the poll for who bears most responsibility.


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