Organised crime and the corruption of public institutions in the United Kingdom : implications for policy and practice

by Sappho XENAKIS – march 2013

 

Sappho XENAKIS [ 1] is RBUCE-UP Marie Curie Fellow at CESDIP. At CESDIP she is pursuing a two-year research project on international law enforcement co-operation against organised crime and political violence, which is funded jointly under the RBUCE-UP programme by the universities research hub Paris UniverSud and the European Union (Marie Curie Actions). Presented below is a policy paper that draws on findings from research carried out on the relationship between organised crime and corruption in the UK. Research leading to this paper has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No. 246556.

 

In the UK, prosecution rates for corrupt acts and perceived levels of corruption are both low by international comparison. An audit into the nature and extent of corruption in the UK, conducted by the non-governmental organisation Transparency International UK (TIUK) and published in 2011, however, concluded that the problem of corruption within the public sector, and of the risks posed by the relationship between corruption and organised crime more particularly, had been underestimated and insufficiently explored by official bodies and independent experts alike [ 2]. A key concern motivating the audit was the potential impact upon the effectiveness of UK public bodies to counter corruption of major cuts to public sector funding that have been introduced nationally over the past two years. Alongside reviewing the types of corruption found within the National Health Service, social housing services, and public sector procurement practices, the report considered the challenges of corruption being experienced by different component bodies within the criminal justice system. As well as noting problems being faced by the police and the judiciary in combatting corruption, the report drew uncommon attention to the predicament of prisons. It was argued that prisons in Britain manifest significant vulnerabilities to corruption : the risk of non-prison officer staff becoming involved in corrupt acts ; the risk that performance measurement targets for prison institutions stimulate demand for corruption (both amongst prison staff and between prison staff and inmates) ; and what is described as the risk of a « symbiotic relationship » forming between organised crime groups with imprisoned group members and corruption taking place within prisons. With a view to contributing to an incipient debate about the way in which criminal justice policy might appropriately rise to the challenges set out by the TIUK report, this policy paper draws on an assessment of British, regional and international experiences of the problems of, and policies against, corruption and organised crime. The text below represents an attempt to help conceptualise the risks that could be posed by organised crime to UK public bodies through the use of corruption, to discuss factors that affect accurate assessment of the actual level of risk today, and to consider which counter-measures could be helpful to combatting the dual challenge of organised crime and corruption.

Notes
[1] I am grateful for feedback on earlier versions of this paper provided by participants in a one-day seminar on « Prison Corruption » held in London in October 2012 and organised by the Centre for the Study of Corruption at the University of Sussex, and by the reviewers of Questions Pénales.
[2] MACAULAY T., 2011, Corruption in the UK Part Two : Assessment of Key Sectors, London, Transparency International UK.

 

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