Blimey - two great R4 programmes in a couple of weeks.
I missed the first part, and haven't had time to listen to it online yet, but parts two and three of the four-part The Crime of Our Lives - which covers crime and criminal justice in the UK from the dark days of the 1950s to our present nirvana - have been enthralling stuff. If you want to know how we got where we are it's a must-listen.
Unfortunately the BBC's 'Listen Again' feature seems to be having some technical issues - as a result of which parts 1 and 2 are no longer available online. I do hope they fix this - it would be a crime not to have this available. If amyone's got an mp3 of Parts 1 or 2 please let me know, although I hope the BBC will restore the online versions.
Part 2 covered the real disaster years of the sixties and early 70s - the Roy Jenkins era, the abandonment of preventative beat policing for reactive squad car patrolling, what happened to the Probation and Prison services (for which see here). A great deal of the history will be familiar to readers of Peter Hitchens 'A Brief History of Crime'. Remarkably, all shades of opinion were represented - for example, ex-probation officer David Fraser, a fierce critic of the changes, talked about the Probation Service.
You can't take underlying BBC bias out completely - an armed robber talked about how the long sentences handed out to the train robbers made criminals more prepared to kill, as the sentences wouldn't be any different, without anyone pointing out that such an attitude was only made possible by the abolition of the death penalty around the same time - but still a great programme.
Part 3 (RealAudio till next week) was even more revealing to a born-again rightie like me - after all, it's received wisdom that Roy Jenkins civilised society led directly to today's shambles. What was an eye-opener was the revelation of the utter uselessness of a succession of Tory Home secretaries during the Thatcher years. You can see why the culture wars were lost during the Eighties - these people literally didn't have a clue. We hear of Tory Home secretaries pleading with the judiciary to send less people to jail, not to charge young first-time offenders - did you know that youth crime (as reflected by the stats and presumably by a new reluctance to charge) actually went down between the 70s and the mid-eighties ? - while continuing to throw red-meat soundbites to the poor bloody infantry at Conference. And as for the new street cultures springing up - well listen to a Home Secretary (Hurd ? I'll have to listen again) describing sitting in a Belgravia apartment, hearing the police sirens go past on their way to Broadwater Farm or Brixton and asking 'who are these people' ?
I'm looking forward to part four, which I predict will include a reference to the Broken Windows theory of crime, and should feature strongly the arrival on horseback of the white knight, the first post-war Home Secretary to reduce crime - the Blessed Michael Howard.