I have almost finished writing a book will draw together my experiences of criminal justice while I was at the Home Office between 1959 and 1992, with some later reflections from my time as an Associate at the Centre. Its focus will be partly on crime and criminal justice, the changes that took place and the factors that prompted or constrained them; but it will also include some impressions of the Home Office as a department of state, the interaction between ministers and officials, its relations with the judiciary and the public services for which it had responsibility, and the civil servant’s role as a ‘servant of the Crown’. Most of the functions with which I was concerned are now the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, formed in 2007.

The book will complement my earlier accounts in Crime State and Citizen and in Where Next for Criminal Justice? , the latter written with Ros Burnett, but it will be more selective in concentrating on those issues and events with which I was personally concerned and my impressions of them.  Lord Windlesham has given a more comprehensive account of some of those events in his Responses to Crime, especially in Volume 2; Andrew Rutherford has described my own approach to them in Chapter 5 of Transforming Criminal Justice; and Ian Loader has examined the ‘governance of crime’ and the decline in the influence of civil servants like myself in his article ‘Fall of the Platonic Guardians’. Other accounts include Ian Dunbar’s and Anthony Langdon’s Tough Justice, Mick Ryan’s Penal Policy and Political Culture, and from a broader perspective David Garland’s Culture of Control. My objective in this book is not to repeat what has been said elsewhere, but to give a more personal account of the events with which I was most involved and of what I thought and felt about them; and to describe my own perception of the attitudes, beliefs and values which lay behind them.

The book will explain my own involvement in those processes and describe what I did or tried to do and what I thought, both at the time and subsequently in retrospect and from a different perspective. Chapters will describe my impressions of the Home Office as I found it at the end of the 1950s; how I saw prisons and the Prison Department at different periods in the mid 1960s, the early 1970s and the early 1980s; and the government’s policies towards crime and criminal justice during the 1980s, their context, and how they were formulated. Later chapters will be about Home staff and organisation; some later reflections on the relationships between officials and ministers, human rights and the relationship between the state and the private sector in the provision of public services. The final chapter will describe the work I have done since I left the Home Office and the present situation as I see it, and offer some conclusions.

The book is not intended to be a collection of memoirs or a personal life history, but rather a commentary on criminal justice and the Home Office and a story about them. It will cover, for example, how the Home Office behaved as a department; the relationship between ministers and officials as I experienced it; how the Department set about decision-making and the formation and implementation of policy; and how I tried to do my job. I will try to illustrate the values and culture which I see as implicit in the criminal justice process in this country, and the approaches which successive governments took towards them. I hope the story will be of historical interest to scholars and practitioners, and to those who have similar responsibilities today; and that it may also have some relevance to the continuing debate both about criminal justice and about civil service reform.

It is not a story of high drama, new revelations or biting criticisms, but of people trying conscientiously to do our jobs, to make things better where we could, and to do so with some sense of purpose in which we could believe.

The book should be published during the summer by Waterside Press.