Murder in the UK

The justice system in the UK and abroad

Murder in the UK

Postby Gavin » 27 Mar 2013, 13:23

I have been inspired to start this topic by a quick visit I just made to the local sandwich shop. It may be instructive for foreigners about the state of British society.

Me: Hi Claire [I'll call her Claire]! How's it going?

Claire: Oh good, good.

Me: You know, I was going to pop in last week. I actually came out here but on that day you were closed. It was a Thursday.

Claire: Oh yes, we were at an inquest. Turned out to be a complete waste of our time and money. [Already, with the British legal bureaucracy, I'm not surprised.]

Me: Oh.. really?

Claire: Yeah, my ex-husband was murdered.

Me: What?!

Claire: Yeah.. he was beaten to death in the street.


She was quite matter-of-fact about it. I asked more about this and she was very forthcoming, as forthcoming as she could be while working in the sandwich shop. This is only anecdotal, but I was told that the man had been refused entry to a nightclub and was then beaten up very severely by bouncers in a nearby alley, witnesses seeing what was going on.

Apparently the bouncer concerned then went on the run but eventually took himself to a police station and to some degree confessed. Apparently the police eventually told him they would not press any charges for the man's death (he died of his very severe injuries some weeks later). The inquest was to ascertain the cause of the man's death.

Claire said "You should have seen the bouncer - he looked like an animal". By this of course she means he was much worse than an animal. I have seen the type, all over the UK. Even if guilty, I suppose he'll walk.

There are a lot of uncertainties in the case above, of course, but it gives a flavour of life here, and this is only a small town. Another man was murdered outside a pub nearby (there are no guns in the UK and the carrying of knives is illegal - this was a fatal beating again). There's a plaque to commemorate him on a bench. I should think the assailants walked for that one, too.

Anyway, this brings up the topic of murder in the UK and there is a very interesting and well made site which deals with the topic. It has its hands full dealing only with London - just take a look at the map.
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Re: Murder in the UK

Postby Nathan » 27 Mar 2013, 17:06

I have to say, that startling as that exchange sounds and true I'm sure it is, suggesting that it might be instructive to an unknowing foreigner as to the state of British society or in any way typical is perhaps going a little bit far.

Crime figures for things like theft can be fiddled in various different ways (for example, if somebody breaks into an electronics shop and steals ten iPads in one go, is that to be counted as one theft or ten?), and because the proportion of theft victims reporting it to the police may go up and down over time, but because of its seriousness and because a coroner is involved I can't believe that more or less every homicide isn't reported to the police, investigated and recorded at least as much now as ever in the past, making year-on-year comparisons meaningful.

The latest figures for England and Wales show that the homicide total was 550, the lowest for nearly 30 years. The London murder figure was under 100 for the first time in decades.

Also, when doing a bit of research on this a while ago it was interesting to find out that even before 1965 when the death penalty was in place, it was rarely used, and murderers whose crimes were not deemed serious enough for it only served an average of nine years of their life sentence. The average time served by a convicted murderer now is 16 years, up from 13 in 1999. The sentencing guidelines are also much more rigid than in previous decades.

Our police murder clear-up rate of 95% is actually one of the highest in the world. (The equivalent rate in the US is 65%, and in Guatemala, which has the worst rate in the world I am aware of, allegedly less than 2%.)
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Re: Murder in the UK

Postby Gavin » 27 Mar 2013, 17:56

They're very reassuring figures, Nathan (thanks), and it is certainly true that our murder rate is very low indeed compared with somewhere like, for example, South Africa.

Nonetheless, would you agree there is an almost tangible level of menace and low level antisocial behaviour across Britain now "at street level"? That's my impression, and just sometimes it flares over into a newsworthy event or an actual murder.
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Re: Murder in the UK

Postby Nathan » 27 Mar 2013, 21:04

Gavin wrote:Nonetheless, would you agree there is an almost tangible level of menace and low level antisocial behaviour across Britain now "at street level"? That's my impression, and just sometimes it flares over into a newsworthy event or an actual murder.


Oh yes, though in my part of London I actually don't see it that much compared to what you'd expect to see on a night out in an average provincial city. It may just be my perception but I actually don't sense it as much as I did, say, eight or ten years ago, though perhaps it might just be where I live, or the different places I'd go to on a night out, or just me being older.

Reading this article in the Daily Mail about British students partying in Spain it just felt tame to me compared to the outraged, lurid stories of debauchery in the Mediterranean resorts you used to get in the papers practically every summer in the 90s. Likewise football hooliganism, whatever happened to that?
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Re: Murder in the UK

Postby Andy JS » 12 Apr 2013, 22:01

The MurderMap website endeavours to document homicides in London as they take place. So far this year there have been only 24 which is of course a very low level for a city of 8.2 million people. In 2012 there were 97.
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Re: Murder in the UK

Postby Jonathan » 18 Apr 2013, 06:18

Nathan wrote:...but because of its seriousness and because a coroner is involved I can't believe that more or less every homicide isn't reported to the police, investigated and recorded at least as much now as ever in the past, making year-on-year comparisons meaningful


One must recall that improvements in emergency medicine have saved the lives of many severely injured people, who would have died thirty years ago. So if you had 100 murders both in 1980 and in 2010, this would actually reflect a large increase in violent crime.

Our police murder clear-up rate of 95% is actually one of the highest in the world. (The equivalent rate in the US is 65%


I suspect this is is more a reflection of the corruption of UK police statistics than of the competence of the force. I've read too many examples of criminals confessing to ten crimes under circumstances when they know they will only be punished for one; or of multiple crimes being logged over one petty brawl, so as to register 4 solved crimes in one go; or of complaints being dropped when apprehending the criminal is unlikely, or requires too much effort.
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Re: Murder in the UK

Postby Nathan » 18 Apr 2013, 09:38

Jonathan wrote:One must recall that improvements in emergency medicine have saved the lives of many severely injured people, who would have died thirty years ago. So if you had 100 murders both in 1980 and in 2010, this would actually reflect a large increase in violent crime.


Actually yes, you do have a point there. Shame we can't quantify the improvement in medical treatment to say how many 1980 murders equate to how many 2010 murders.

Jonathan wrote:
I suspect this is is more a reflection of the corruption of UK police statistics than of the competence of the force. I've read too many examples of criminals confessing to ten crimes under circumstances when they know they will only be punished for one; or of multiple crimes being logged over one petty brawl, so as to register 4 solved crimes in one go; or of complaints being dropped when apprehending the criminal is unlikely, or requires too much effort.


I can easily see the figures for minor offences being fiddled like how you mentioned, but I'm struggling to believe murders being taken so lightly. I don't know how other countries work, but the files on unsolved murder cases here are never closed, regardless of the difficulty.

To give one, fairly extreme example of how ineffective some police forces and legal systems can be, in Colombia a man named Luis Garavito was found guilty of raping and murdering up to 300 children over a seven-year period, and was only captured because he was caught in the act of attempted rape, not because of any thorough investigation of how so many children were going missing or being found killed as would certainly be the case here.

Another shocking thing about his case was that the maximum prison sentence allowed under Colombian law is only 30 years, and despite the scale of what he did, as Garavito admitted to his crimes he was given a reduction to just 22 years in prison, and despite the Colombian legal system's best efforts to find a way of keeping him in longer, it is likely he will be released.
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Re: Murder in the UK

Postby Andy JS » 08 Nov 2017, 00:35

BBC radio news has just reported the following information: Cressida Dick, the head of the London metropolitan police, has apparently stated that it's disappointing that every young murder victim in the capital so far this year has been either black or Asian.

Firstly, I find it a bit odd that this implies it would be preferable if the statistics were more evenly balanced between the races, and secondly the percentage of young white people living in London is pretty low these days and most of them live in low crime areas on the edge of the city, so it's not surprising that most victims are black or Asian.

For instance, one of the London boroughs with the highest homicide rate, Newham, was only 16% white British at the time of the 2011 census. But of course that data is already out of date given the fast demographic changes that are taking place in London, and also most of that 16% would have been elderly white people too poor to move anywhere else. The percentage of young white British people would probably be 10% or less even back in 2011, and lower today.
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