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It has long been known that a link exists between gambling and the commission of criminal offences. Now, The Howard League for Penal Reform is taking a deep dive into the subject, with the aim of better serving offenders, communities and society as a whole.
Gambling Addiction and Crime
At Ashmans Solicitors, we understand the complexity of gambling addictions and the part this may play in crime. If this is a factor in your case, we will handle the issue with sensitivity. Contact our criminal defence solicitors for expert legal representation.
The Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling 2019
Until now, the issue of problem gambling has received little consideration from the criminal justice system. It is not seen as a mitigating factor when sentencing (as some other disorders are). Prisons do not screen for problem gambling, and the probation service has limited guidance relating to gambling in past offenders.
The Howard League for Penal Reform recognised these gaps in knowledge, prompting it to launch the Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling 2019. The review is set to end in 2022, but the evidence found to date has been recently published. Some initial recommendations have also been made.
Thus far, the Commission has found that:
- There is a lack of targeted activity or knowledge with regards to crime related to problem gambling. This is true across much of the criminal justice system, including at the police station, during court proceedings and in prison/probation.
- Problem gambling is a recognised mental health disorder, but it is not dealt with by the criminal justice system appropriately when dealing with related offending.
- Those with problem gambling sometimes receive harsher penalties, such as a community order instead of a fine. This is known as ‘up-tariffing’.
The Commission has said that the Ministry of Justice must review what improvements can be made. This includes raising awareness and conducting training among practitioners. Specialist services should also be improved. The Sentencing Council would need to issue new guidelines so that crime linked to problem gambling is dealt with appropriately in court.
The Commission identified a pilot scheme in Cheshire as an example of good practice, whereby people were screened for problem gambling at the point of arrest.
Proceeds of crime and gambling
The Commission also touched on the subject of proceeds of crime. Those with a gambling problem rarely benefit from crime financially, as any money gained is used to fuel their addiction. The offender may not, therefore, have any realisable assets to be confiscated. Due to the hidden nature of the illness, it may be that the family unit suffers from confiscation proceedings more than the offender. This may be particularly pertinent to some of our clients. If so, we will take care to plead your case at POCA proceedings, ensuring your family is not wrongfully penalised.
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