In 1997 there were 57 000 notifiable crimes of serious or sexual violence recorded by police in England and Wales (Home Office, 1998) – more than 1000 per week or approximately one every 10 minutes. On 15 February 1999 the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, announced new measures “better to protect the public from dangerous people in our society” (House of Commons, 1999). He said the measures were to target “those who are capable of committing acts of a serious sexual or violent nature”. Of the 57 000 potential targets, Mr Straw believes 1800 men are already detained in prisons and special hospitals; he intends to identify a further 500 or so men currently at liberty and lock them away indefinitely, in advance of their offending. His intention in respect of the other 54 700 violent or sexual offenders, responsible for 99% of serious violence, is not stated. Mr Straw believes that the 500 men in the community (and the 1800 in custody) share a common psychiatric condition and that this is what makes them dangerous. His policy for identifying the men, and what he intends to do with them and similar people, is contained in the recently published consultation paper on dangerous people with severe personality disorder (Home Office & Department of Health, 1999).
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