Fair Trials opposes the expansion of criminal legal systems and believes criminal prosecution should be a measure of last resort when used at all. Prosecution should not be used to oppress people, suppress political dissent, or to deal with social problems that could be better addressed through investment in poverty alleviation, education, housing, healthcare and support for people with mental health or neurodivergent conditions.
Many politicians talk about being ‘tough on crime’ and their aims to make criminal prosecution a public policy priority. This doesn’t make societies any safer but instead leads to ineffective and unnecessary laws, the creation of new crimes, and results in excessive prosecution and imprisonment which wastes precious resources and devastates families and communities.
Punitive approaches lead to expanding police powers and overcriminalisation, which in turn leads to overburdened systems and the rise of truncated processes to impose punishment without trial, through such means as coercive plea bargaining or trial waivers.
Fair Trials builds and works with coalitions across movements to find alternative solutions to criminalisation. We campaign against new and existing laws that try to use criminal powers to deal with social problems, political issues such as migration and minor offences, such as fare evasion. People with mental health or neurodivergent conditions, or substance addiction, should receive support and treatment instead of punishment.
Fair Trials has called on the European Parliament and other governmental bodies to abandon the criminalisation approach to hate speech and hate crime, and to address the underlying social issues that drive inequality.
Fair Trials has joined other organisations to call on the EU to take an inclusive approach to gender-based violence that centres on survivors and addresses underlying social issues rather than increased criminalisation. We also call for better treatment of domestic survivors who are accused of crimes.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries passed laws to enforce lockdowns that led to the criminalisation of hundreds of thousands of people. Fair Trials exposed how these laws were often enforced in an arbitrary and discriminatory way, and has opposed the use of heavy-handed policing and prosecution to deal with a public health crisis. In the UK, we have called for Covid prosecutions to be dropped and for all related fines to be refunded.