The Howard League has underlined the need for an overhaul in how the UK’s Criminal Justice System (CJS) tackles ‘crimes linked to problem gambling’.

The headline remark was made by the League’s ‘Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling’ – a research unit led by Lord Goldsmith QC, that has analysed links between problem gambling and crimes committed during the past two-years. 

Publishing its ‘State of Play’ briefing, the Commission underlined that the UK’s CJS was hindered by a ‘lack of knowledge’ with regards to how problem gambling harms can lead to crime.

Taking on a first-of-its-kind inquiry, the Commission secured direct feedback from criminal justice stakeholders, public health, gambling firms and the lived experience of victims of crime and problem gambling addiction.

Of note, despite problem gambling being a recognised mental health disorder, the Commission states that the CJS has inadequately dealt with responding to related offences in an appropriate way.

Lord Goldsmith QC, Chair of the Commission on Problem Gambling, commented: “Crime related to problem gambling represents unplumbed depths of which the criminal justice system seems largely unaware.

“Prisons do not screen for signs of problem gambling when people arrive, and it would be up to individual probation practitioners to pick up on problem gambling from their caseload – with limited guidance to support the people they are supervising or to advise on what treatment services might be available locally.

“Pockets of good practice do exist, particularly where the police first make contact with people who may have committed offences linked to problem gambling, but far more work needs to be done across the system to tackle this issue and reduce crime.”

It comes as poor measures have led to the CJS ‘up-tariffing’ problem gambling offences, replacing fines and treatment orders on individuals with more punitive outcomes.  

As the UK’s system of law enforcement, the CJS and its officers have suffered from a lack of ‘examples of good practice’ in how frontline police officers should respond and engage to crimes committed as a result of problem gambling.