UK Needs Strategy To Tackle Gambling-Related Crime, Says Report

April 27, 2023
UK charity, the Howard League for Penal Reform, has called for the creation of a national board to address crime linked to gambling, following the completion of its over three-year-long inquiry.


The Howard League for Penal Reform, a UK charity, has called for the creation of a national board to address crime linked to gambling, following the completion of its over three-year-long inquiry.

The penal reform charity wants this board to include senior representatives from the police, crime commissioners, prosecutors, courts, probation officers, prisons, public health bodies, victims and representation from those with lived experience of gambling-related harms.

In its final report published on April 26, the Howard League also calls for a “greater central drive from the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, together with more funding to be provided locally and regionally, to develop a treatment and support infrastructure through the police, courts and prisons, which would help to reduce crime and enable more people to access services”.

It makes several other recommendations on a host of issues which it groups into four key areas: Developing a strategic approach in response to gambling-related crime, enhancing the role of criminal justice agencies, integrating gambling-related crime into broader government action on gambling harms, and commissioning further research.

The final report is a summary of a host of academic research, including survey and focus groups, freedom of information (FOI) requests to police forces, lived-experience interviews, as well as original co-produced research into the experience of women and ethnic minorities in prison culture.

The Commission on Crime and Gambling-Related Harms, chaired by Lord Peter Goldsmith, was set up by the Howard League in 2019 and oversaw the investigation into the links between crime and gambling-related harm.

Lord Goldsmith said the findings show, “it is time for action. Our recommendations point the way ahead for politicians, policymakers and everyone working to prevent crime.”

“Gambling-related harms have links to a diverse range of offences, but this is not yet well recognised by the government and reliable estimates of prevalence remain elusive,” Lord Goldsmith said.

In 2020, the charity released the findings of one of its studies revealing that problem gambling can be linked to both white-collar and violent crime throughout the United States, Australia and much of Europe, but definitive research is lacking.

In 2021, the charity called on the Ministry of Justice to review how the criminal justice system trains and raises awareness of problem gambling among practitioners, as well as look into how it can improve its specialist support services.

Additionally, the charity recommended that the Sentencing Council for England and Wales “guide improvements” to ensure problem gambling-related crimes are “appropriately dealt with by the courts”.

In 2022, the group called for people to be screened for gambling harm when arrested, as it warned that not enough is known about the links between crime and excessive gambling.

In March 2023, another part of the report was published, claiming gambling in British prisons is often viewed as a way to occupy inmates’ time but it can include “serious acts of bullying, manipulation and violence”.

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