Crime and disorder has taken a back seat in this election with most attention directed towards the leaders’ debates. Cameron has promised the ‘big society’, Brown has argued that his party will retain its focus on anti-social behaviour and will ‘protect the borders’ and Clegg didn’t have much to say on the subject.
In Northern Ireland – the devolution of policing and justice did not figure much in the election campaign, with a reversion to sectarian-style politics seen in much of the pre-election debate. The election of Naomi Long, Alliance party candidate to the Peter Robinson’s former East Belfast seat is a welcome antidote to the uglier side of sectarian politics and with David Forde her party leader as Minister for Justice, the Alliance Party will have a key influence on crime and justice policies in Northern Ireland.
One issue remains clear, the large deficits will result in an overall reduction in public spending – already this has impacted on the prison-building programme in the Republic of Ireland with the plans to build Thornton Hall and new juvenile justice facilities on hold – this will also impact on the criminal justice system in the UK. And while Northern Ireland may remain somewhat insulated given its history, it can only be seen as a special case for so long. David Cameron has already indicated that he will target NI for cuts in public spending – what impact this will have on criminal justice remains to be seen.
Whatever the result, this graph produced by the UK’s Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that the overall similarities in monetary terms of the main UK parties’ spending plans – the question therefore is not whether but where the axe will fall