The Public Interest

Crime and punishment in England

James Q. Wilson

Spring 1976

HOWEVER much we Americans may deplore the apparent political and economic decay of England, there persists among nearly all of us the admiring view that at least with respect to criminal justice, the English know how to do things properly. The images about British justice with which we have been supplied by countless reporters and storytellers remain unsullied and intact-the quiet, competent, incorruptible bobby; the stern but fair judge; the quick and certain punishment for wrongdoers; the respect and deference shown by all ranks of the English population toward unarmed constables; the safety and security of the meanest streets of London. To be sure, we are aware of some incidents of terrorist violence and an occasional football riot, but these are isolated and modest exceptions to the normal state of affairs.

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