Probation innovation praised for cutting region’s crime rate

A NEW way of managing offenders in West Yorkshire has been hailed as an example of “innovative” practice which cuts crime.

Monday, 9th September 2013, 1:01 am

A report has highlighted the approach the probation service and the courts have taken in Yorkshire, which has reduced court delays and led to fewer breaches of sentences.

Courts normally expect assessments by the probation service to be delivered before sentence is passed, but in West Yorkshire, officers prepare detailed reports after sentencing.

This, the report says, “not only helps courts conclude cases more quickly, but also gives probation time to do its assessment properly”.

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The assessments, which work out what activities the offender must take part in, everything from education to one-to-one work, are done with the offenders’ full involvement.

It has resulted in positive reviews from courts, staff and offenders, fewer breaches of sentences and 2,162 fewer adjournments over 10 months compared to the previous year.

The report, Better Courts, authored by Phil Bowen, Director of the Centre for Justice Innovation and Stephen Whitehead, of the New Economics Foundation, says some courts are coming up with their own improvements, but they are “still too few and far between”, and encounter obstacles when they try to make changes.

Mr Bowen said: “The criminal courts of England and Wales have many strengths but are under increasing pressure to reduce their cost.

“In this drive for efficiency, we believe the Government is in danger of forgetting the valuable role courts can play in reducing crime.

“This report sets out practical steps that courts can take to reduce crime, using existing resources and building on current practice.”

West Yorkshire Probation Trust has more than 11,000 offenders on its books, with around half on community orders, meaning the whole sentence is carried out in the community.

Director of Operations Mark Siddall said: “We have been delighted to work with West Yorkshire Courts to develop and implement Post Sentence Assessment to continue our innovative approach to cutting crime.

“The most recent Ministry of Justice statistics show that West Yorkshire’s reoffending rate is 11.23 per cent lower than the predicted rate. This is double the national fall in reoffending.”