Involvement in the criminal justice system

The criminal justice system is formed of agencies who maintain law and order, sanction those who have committed criminal offences, and help to rehabilitate them back into society.

People can be involved in the criminal justice system as an offender, victim or witness.

Vulnerability to exploitation

Involvement in the criminal justice system can stem from people’s past experience of trauma and vulnerability, including experience of exploitation, whether as a victim or a perpetrator.

Vulnerability and offending have a complex relationship. People who re-offend may do so because of existing vulnerabilities, which can make them targets of exploitation. This can include exploitation by gangs and criminal networks, involvement with which can lead to further criminalisation and vulnerability.

The investigation and trial process can also prove stressful and traumatic, with implications for people’s long-term wellbeing and ability to keep themselves safe from future harm.

The transition from imprisonment can be challenging, especially if people do not have a secure home or job to return to, and if they struggle to access immediate support. This can leave them vulnerable to exploitation by those offering them food, shelter or companionship.

People may find themselves drawn back into the social groups and activities that led them into criminality. Re-engagement with these networks and activities may increase the chance that they will commit further crimes, and may place them in situations where their vulnerabilities are exploited by others.