Crime doesn't pay, so the saying goes – but the costs to society are high. According to The Times, HM Treasury calculates that the total cost of each murder committed in Britain is a staggering £1.8 million. The figure was reached by adding together the physical, social and economic costs of the average murder.
The Treasury report appears to confirm findings made in 2011 by Victims' Commissioner Louise Casey, who sent questionnaires to people affected by violent death. Casey's report ("Review into the Needs of Families Bereaved by Homicide") found that families being unable to work caused great financial worry when they were least able to cope, and also other costs which poorer victims – who are disproportionally affected by murder – could not bear. These included the cost of a transcript to a murder trial, which according to the report costs £700.
Many families were also compelled to move, as one victim responded in their questionnaire. "I was traumatised each time I set foot on to the road where I lived because the murderer and his family lived (nearby). I was impelled to move away, as the only conceivable solution to my dilemma, thus incurring costs to my family which were not planned."
Though the emotional costs of murder are incalculable, other costs can be estimated. According to the Treasury, an average murder costs more than £1 million in social costs, £530,000 in economic costs – including "lost output" – and £174,000 in direct costs to the NHS, police and criminal justice agencies, making a total of £1,778,000.
However, although the average figure is shocking, some murders – particularly ones which go unsolved for years – can cost much more. In the UK no unsolved murder is ever closed, and according to the most recent statistics there are still 1,143 unsolved killings on the books dating back to the brutal slaying of Janet Rogers (also known as Henderson) in Scotland in 1866. Even when murders are solved the costs can be huge: keeping Moors Murderer Ian Brady incarcerated for the last 50 years has cost the tax-payer some £14m.
Overall despite the fall in violent crime including murder in the UK, from over 1,000 in 2001-02 to 551 in 2013, the cost to society remain huge. Last year a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace revealed that violent crime costs the economy around £124 billion a year – 7.7% of GDP.