Britain's leading crime experts have accused Tony Blair of becoming an uncritical "cheerleader for more punishment" and told him that yet another round of criminal justice legislation would be like "putting a plaster on a broken leg".
They warned the prime minister to "think hard" before today launching "another grand statement of governmental purpose and a further round of headline-grabbing legislation" to tackle crime.
Ian Loader, Oxford University's professor of criminology, one of a group of leading crime experts called in by Downing Street to advise Mr Blair on today's speech, told him: "As the Home Office has found to its cost in recent weeks, the dizzying pace of new initiatives has made it more difficult to keep one's eye on the ball of sound administration and deliver programmes that stand some chance of achieving positive results on the ground."
Mr Blair's speech is expected to lead to a new round of criminal justice legislation. Plans next month are expected to include a further extension of on-the-spot justice for low-level crime and disorder, and the introduction of "public protection advocates" to limit the impact of human rights legislation on the criminal justice system.
In his written advice among the submissions from crime experts posted yesterday on the N0 10 website, Prof Loader said that after interviewing victims of crime for a decade he was convinced that those who felt angry and let down by the criminal justice system were not the majority Mr Blair imagines; they were a noisy minority at a time when crime had been going down for a decade.
His warning was backed by Julian Roberts, of Oxford University, who said Mr Blair's "redress the balance" analysis would "lead to a tabloid justice outcome". Sir Anthony Bottoms, Wolfson professor of criminology, said anxieties about disorder in the streets could not necessarily be tackled by reforms to the justice system because of low detection rates for many crimes and the reluctance of people in the worst areas to report crime.