Topic 10 Government and the authorities

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About Topic 10

The Government and the authorities topic mostly includes law and order, crime and policing, justice and punishment. Occasionally the Task may refer to ways of managing public services, and relations between countries.

The Tasks may ask about public policy in terms of funding (Eg ‘How should prisons be run – by governments or by private organizations?’) but will not ask for your political views or about actual events in specific countries.

Topic 10 example Task:
Some observers say those police officers should be recruited from the communities where they work so that they have local knowledge. Other people say that this is unnecessary, or even undesirable. Where do you stand on this debate? Is local knowledge essential in modern policing?

Explanation of the Task:
This is an Opinion>Personal viewpoint Task. You should introduce the topic and give your opinion in the introduction, then explain why you have this view. You should briefly consider the opposing view, then restate your opinion in the conclusion. The Task has the specific instruction to decide if you think local knowledge is ‘essential,’ so you should refer to this as part of your opinion.

Band 9 model essay:
The need for effective, trustworthy police officers is paramount in society today, especiallyas criminals become more devious and creative. Regarding whether police should be locally hired,there is a case to be made on both sides of the debate.

Those who support local recruitment of officers point to the need for the police to understand the minutiae of the local community. For example, a community may have certain frictions or a history of a specific grievance, whether religious, political or otherwise. In such situations, the argument goes, the police need to show sensitivity, and also be able to anticipate the kinds of crimes that may be committed. Furthermore, local officers may find it easier to gain informants in the community, leading to stronger evidence at trials, higher conviction rates and a deterrent to crime through sentencing, imprisonment, fines or community service leading to rehabilitation of the offender.

On the other hand, it seems likely that officers from the community may in fact share some of the tendencies of the people they grew up with. For example, in countries such as Mexico, we see a high incidence of corruption among the local business and government community which is equalled by bribery among the police. A second objection is that local sensitivity may lead to the police failing to enforce laws fully, and effectively making exceptions for some offenders, which is unequitable towards law-abiding citizens. Finally, we must remember that police officers should have transferable skills, such as lateral thinking and investigative ability, which should transcend their background or the environment they are working in.

Overall, it seems to me that local knowledge is not absolutely essential for the police, whose skills should be effective in any context. Indeed, I agree with those who say that the risks of local recruitment outweigh the benefits, because of the danger of corruption and over-familiarity with potential offenders.

(318 words)
Explanation of the topic vocabulary and examples in Speaking:
Trustworthy = capable of being trusted
In most countries, politicians are regarded as untrustworthy and possibly corrupt.
Paramount = of the greatest importance
It is paramount that we find a solution to the problem of Internet piracy.
Devious = extremely clever in a dishonest way
Online criminals today are devious and use many different methods to deceive their victims.
Minutiae (pronounced ‘my-new-shy’) = small details
Nobody really understands the minutiae of the new tax code.
Grievance = an issue which makes people upset or angry for a long time
Some towns in the countryside have a grievance with the central government because of land reform laws.
Sensitivity = being alert to the circumstances of a specific group of people
Teachers should show sensitivity to students who have language difficulties.
To commit an offence/a crime = to do it
The President committed murder when he arranged for his opponent to be assassinated.
Informants = people who tell the police useful information about criminals in their area
The police paid the informant for information about who organized the riots.
Evidence = material presented in court to prove that someone is guilty or innocent
The police had a lot of DNA evidence against her, but no witness statements.
A trial = the legal procedure of prosecuting someone for a crime
A murder trial can last for many weeks and cost millions of Euros to conduct.
Conviction rates = the percentage of accused people who are convicted of (= found to be guilty of) a crime
Conviction rates for burglary are low; only about 30% of trials result in a conviction.
A deterrent = something that makes people not want to do something (verb = to deter)
We have a guard dog as a deterrent against intruders at night. It deters people from coming into our garden.
Sentencing = the action of telling a convicted criminal what the punishment is (verb = to sentence)
Imprisonment = punishment by being in prison
He was sentenced to five years imprisonment for the armed robbery of a shop.
A fine = money paid as a punishment
The fine for speeding in my country is about 200 Euros.
Community service = punishment by doing manual work for the public
Her community service consisted of cleaning the town parks and sweeping litter in the streets.
Rehabilitation = the process of changing a criminal’s character so that he does not commit more crimes (verb = to rehabilitate someone)
Some prisons use music and drama to rehabilitate offenders. Others say there is no point in trying.
An offender = a person who commits an offence
The government should provide training for offenders in prison so that they don’t turn to crime again when they leave.
Tendencies = inclinations due to your character (usually negative)
Some young people in cities have tendencies towards graffiti and vandalism.
Corruption = the crime when an official breaks laws to help people that he knows
Corruption is widespread in the police in some developing countries.
bribery = the crime of giving money to officials to get something done (verb = to bribe someone)
I had to bribe a customs inspector to get my luggage through the airport.
to enforce laws = to apply them to people
The police are not enforcing the laws about dropping litter in public. They should arrest more people for this.
unequitable = unfair or different for different groups
It is inequitable to arrest young people for speeding, but not older people.
law-abiding = following all the laws in a proper way
I am a law-abiding citizen. I never break the speed limit or any other laws.
transferable skills = skills that can be used in different situations
I have transferable skills which I use in both my professional career and my fund-raising work for charities.
lateral thinking = the ability to think creatively and in new ways
Facebook and Google are great examples of companies that have grown on lateral thinking.
investigative = adjective from ‘to investigate’ = to inquire about the causes of a crime or a problem
The police refused to investigate the Prime Minister, leading to accusations of corruption.
to transcend a situation = to be bigger or go beyond it
The need for reducing financial waste transcends the government – everybody should be spending money more carefully.
a context = a specific situation
Armed police evidently works well in the American context, but would be less effective in a British context.
to outweigh = to be more important than
The advantages of having a diesel car outweigh the costs.
over-familiarity = when an official is too friendly with the public
We should discourage over-familiarity between judges and lawyers because it could lead to tocorruption.


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