Select Committee on Home Affairs Third Special Report



Published 10 September 1998. Government Response (Cm 4174) received 7 December 1998


  The target average for purposeful activity per prisoner remains at 24 hours a week. Prisoners have spent an average of 23.6 hours per week for the current year to date. Ministers have not yet agreed the target for 2001-02.

  As part of the Government's aim to reduce crime and re-offending, a programme of work has been put in place which includes: the introduction of new and more effective forms of sentence for juvenile and adult offenders; more rigorous enforcement of community penalties; greater use of electronic technology; drug testing to monitor the behaviour of offenders under criminal justice supervision; and the development of programmes in custody and the community which are known to reduce re-offending. Many of these issues are addressed in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill currently going through Parliament.

  In May of this year, the Home Secretary announced a review of the sentencing framework. The Review is examining the foundations of the existing sentencing framework, including the possibility of more flexible sentencing options that make better use of custodial and community sanctions. It will report to Ministers in May 2001.


  The average occupancy in approved hostels for the financial year ended 31 March 2000 was 86 per cent, a further increase from the previous year. A target of 90 per cent occupancy has been set for this financial year. However, it is important that hostels continue to bear in mind local considerations, and make careful risk assessments when agreeing to accept residents. High occupancy levels, while important, should not be seen as the overriding consideration.

  The sentencing of offenders is a matter for the courts alone. The number of offenders being sentenced to a probation order with a condition of residence in an approved probation and bail hostel has not changed significantly over the last two years. In 1998, probationers made up about 20 per cent of residents in approved hostels, licencees about 12 per cent, and bailees about 65 per cent. The position for the first six months of this year, is that probationers make up about 19 per cent of the total residents, licencees 27 per cent, and bailees 51 per cent.

  Funding is available from the CSR settlement for five new approved hostels to be built over the next three years, subject to local planning permission.

  A research programme (known as a Pathfinder) is being run to establish a model of effective practice for offenders resident in approved hostels.


  The Probation Service IT systems is currently under review. We are examining if it would be cost effective to link the current probation systems to those of the police, given the expectation that they will be changed. A recent survey of probation areas found that most services were content with the way in which the current procedure for obtaining PNC printouts from the police was operating.


  New evidence of the success of offender programmes designed to reduce recidivism has started to become available. This will continue as programmes run as part of the Probation Service's What Works strategy and the Prison Service's Offending Behaviour Programme are evaluated.

  Accreditation of programmes based on evidence of effectiveness at reducing re-offending lies at the heart of the programmes being run by both services. The Joint Prison and Probation Accreditation Panel, which includes leading international academics in the field, has already accredited a number of general offending programmes: Think First, Reasoning and Rehabilitation, Enhanced Thinking Skills, and Cognitive Self-Change; and Sex Offenders. Two Prison Service programmes have also been accredited. Five further programmes have received provisional accreditation and will be expected to gain full accreditation following some revisions.

  Typically, the effect found for evidence based programmes is a 10 per cent reduction in reconvictions, though some programmes have been shown to be capable of reducing expected re-offending by as much as 25 per cent. The first report in a series of studies of programmes in the probation service has found a 14 per cent difference in the re-offending rates of offenders completing the Aggression Replacement Therapy programme at the one year point. This is in line with expectation based on earlier literature reviews and is encouraging.

  The evaluation for the What Works strategy will look at the long term changes in reconviction rates and in the short term at changes in personal characteristics known to be associated with a reduced risk of re-offending. Independent researchers will conduct the evaluation and key results are scheduled to be published by summer 2001.

  Crime Reduction Funding for the evaluation of the Probation Service's offender programmes amounts to £340,000 in 1999-2000 and £507,000 in 2000-01. Some 22 programmes are included. A number of other research projects are examining effectiveness in other areas such as work with black and Asian offenders, and case management schemes.


  New National Standards for the Supervision of Offenders in the Community, introduced in April of this year, require services to ensure that they have a strategy to inform both sentencers and the general public about their work and the services that they provide.

  Earlier in the year, the Government made a grant to an organisation called Payback in connection with the promotion of community sentences. Payback is a voluntary organisation which generates many ideas for publicity for community penalties. It has been asked to produce two specific products: a compilation of "good news stories" about probation which could be placed in appropriate media; and a research project to establish best practice in promoting community sentences and to produce publicity materials to support that. Funds have also been provided for it to act as a resource to supplement the communications and public relations work the probation service already does.

  The focus in the media on sex offenders has provided the opportunity to promote effectiveness of the probation service with high risk offenders by ministers, officials and local areas.


  The research and statistics work outlined in the original Government response is in train, as is the work to refine and improve the quality of the information collected. Under the Crime and Reduction Programme local evaluation teams are gathering costs data which is fed into the centre as part of the process for measuring outputs and outcomes. More generally, the whole Department is moving to resource accounting.


  As already mentioned, new National Standards were introduced earlier this year. Representatives of all criminal justice interests, including sentencers, were involved in their determination. The Government took this opportunity to tighten the standards for enforcement of community sentences so that offenders should be returned to court no later than a second unacceptable failure to comply rather than, as previously, the third such failure.

  The Committee was particularly concerned about the probation service's performance on enforcement. The Government shares this concern and, in response to the Home Secretary's criticisms, ACOP commissioned two national audits that were undertaken by the Criminal Policy Unit, South Bank University. The results were validated by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation.

  The results of the first audit, undertaken on cases commencing in March 1999, showed that on average only 44 per cent of cases were breached in accordance with National Standards, plus in a further 7 per cent of cases a decision not to breach was properly authorised by management. ACOP acknowledged that this was unacceptable and undertook to improve practice. The results of the second audit, on cases commenced in September 1999, showed a welcome improvement with an average of 62 per cent of cases dealt with according to the Standards plus a further 4 per cent of cases with management authorisation not to breach.

  There is still considerable room for improvement for all services to achieve the 90 per cent KPI. A third enforcement audit is to be undertaken shortly which should demonstrate that progress in this area is being maintained.

  Full reports of the two enforcement audits mentioned above have been published[21]. The Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate are conducting a preliminary study into whether enforcing National Standards has any impact on reconviction rates. The results are expected to be published in early 2001. HMIP has conducted a study of enforcement practice in community sentences[22].

  The new format of National Standards was designed specifically to facilitate change where necessary. The Home Office is currently preparing a National Standard for the drug treatment and testing order.

  The Committee also mentioned that consideration should be given to reworking that funding formula for local probation services to provide an incentive for them to meet enforcement targets. A performance link is being put into the funding formula and one of these factors will be performance on enforcement.


  From April 2001, warrant enforcement will be the responsibility of Magistrates' Courts Committees, who will be free to contract out that responsibility should they so wish. The change should result in greater efficiency as the police are not able to give warrant enforcement a high priority given the other demands on their resources.


  The Government proposes to change the punishment regime for breach of a community sentence. Clause 50 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill would have the following effect:

    —  having found the breach to have occurred, the court would first decide whether or not, notwithstanding the current breach, the offender's response to the sentence as a whole were such that it were likely that the order would be successfully completed;

    —  if it did consider that it were likely that the order would be successfully completed the court would allow the order to continue; AND

    —  it would be under a duty to punish the breach by imposition of a community service order, curfew order or (where the offender were of an appropriate age) attendance centre order; but

    —  if the court did not think there were such a likelihood that the order would be successfully completed, it would be required to send the offender to prison. The maximum sentence would be three months unless the court took the view that were it re-sentencing for the original offence it would impose a longer period of imprisonment. If so, the longer period would apply.

  Those offenders who were aged under 18, those cases where there were exceptional circumstances, and those offenders who failed to comply with a requirement to abstain from specified Class A drugs, would not be subject to imprisonment for breach. In dealing with these cases, the courts would be obliged to impose one of the alternative community sentences as a penalty for breach.

  The Government believes that these proposals strike a balance between taking firm and consistent action against breaches whilst allowing the court to take account of the circumstances of each individual case. The clause would also allow the court to impose a custodial penalty on an offender whose original offence was not imprisonable, which answers one of the particular concerns of the Committee.


  A national What Works strategy for the Probation Service was published in September 2000 and its successful implementation is one of the three principal objectives for the service over the next three years. Substantial funding has been obtained under SR2000 to finance What Works methods, and a very extensive national training programme has begun to re-skill the work force. Targets of 30,000 offenders completing accredited offending behaviour programmes and 12,000 completions of basic skills programmes have been set for 2003/04.

  What Works principles should flow through everything that the Probation Service does and the new National Standards are predicated on them. The Standards require that supervision be designed for a specific purpose, for example, supervision plans should say what use is to be made of accredited programmes and provide clear targets for progress.


  National Standards clearly set out the information to be included in a pre-sentence report, including a conclusion which should, inter alia, "make a clear and realistic proposal for sentence designed to protect the public and reduce re-offending, including for custody where this is necessary".


  The SR2000 settlement was successful in obtaining additional resources to lift the CSR baseline to meet the continued growth in workload. Funding was also obtained to finance the additional costs of breach proceedings following more rigorous enforcement. By 2003/04, the number of front line service delivery staff will increase by one third, ensuring that areas are adequately resourced.


  The Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill introduces the Government's proposals for a National Probation Service. A unified service for England and Wales will be created, so that all 42 service areas will be led from a national headquarters within the Home Office. This will make it possible to define more clearly what is required of service areas; to hold them properly accountable for delivering it; and to make it easier to spread the best practices around the country.


  Sentencers visit probation centres and community placements as part of their training. The Lord Chancellor's Department is looking at the question of visits made by sentencers with a view to putting them on a more regular footing.

  Nationally, a series of probation seminars has been taking place with the Judicial Studies Board to promote effective practice to sentencers.


  The work being undertaken to make the work of the Probation Service more widely known and understood has been mentioned above. The Service also has a commitment to the publication of research and the dissemination of effective practice.

  As to informing the public about sentencing decisions, from October magistrates will be required to give the reasons for their decisions in open court in the criminal courts.

  In order to promote greater understanding about community sentences, the Government has proposed in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill that probation orders, community service orders and combination orders should be re-named as, respectively, community rehabilitation orders, community punishment orders, and community punishment and rehabilitation orders.


  Curfew orders were made available nationally from 1 December 1999.


  The review of the sentencing framework is looking at the possibility of combining a suspended sentence with non-custodial orders, whilst taking account of the new arrangements for enforcement of community sentences proposed in clause 50 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill.


  Again, the sentencing review is looking at whether, and if so how, the sentencing framework could include provisions for intermittent custody, at any time of the day or week. The operational and practical implications of any such scheme will be taken into account, along with an evaluation of estimated costs and possible benefits. The Government will consider the options in the light of the report of the review.


  The Government remains determined to improve the enforcement of fines. In support of this aim, and as already mentioned, responsibility for execution of warrants will transfer from the police to the magistrates' courts on 1 April 2001. In addition, a research project has been commissioned through the Crime Reduction Programme to identify and encourage best practice in fine enforcement and this work is making good progress. The Government is also considering the possibility of allowing courts to retain some fines income to fund further improvement in fine enforcement.


  The evaluation of the restorative cautioning initiative in Thames Valley Police will not be completed until 2001. In the meantime, the Home Office is in contact with the researchers conducting the evaluation.

  Restorative justice is an area of particular attention under the effective sentencing practices theme of the Government's current Crime Reduction Programme. The Home Office has commissioned an evaluation of the effectiveness of seven restorative justice schemes nationally (not including the Thames Valley scheme) and will be publishing the report from this study next year.

  The Government recognises that restorative justice has a potentially valuable role to play in addressing offending behaviour and many of the recent youth justice reforms build on restorative justice principles. The Home Office is now looking at the available evidence and considering the case for applying restorative methods more widely.


  The Government recognised that additional resources were required for the national implementation and operation of the new range of youth justice services under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, that is the final warning scheme, reparation, action plan, parenting and child safety orders. £22 million annually has been built into local funding settlements from April 2000 onwards to bring the new range of youth justice orders and interventions into operation.

  The arrangements for youth offending teams and the new youth justice services were also piloted in 10 areas over an 18 month period to identify good practice and to assess the costs and savings associated with the new measures. The available financial information from the pilots, which were independently evaluated, endorsed the original estimates and confirmed that these provided an adequate basis for national implementation.

  Additional resources have also been provided through the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales. The Board has a development fund of more than £80 million over three years from April 1999 to strengthen the local infrastructure of youth justice services and intervention programmes delivered in support of the new measures. This includes provision for bail supervision and support schemes, offender intervention programmes and crime prevention work. Funding has so far been provided for 265 offender intervention programmes and 124 bail support schemes.

  The Government is also finalising the current SR 2000 outcome for youth justice, and the priorities and provision for 2001-04. The level of resources required to deliver the new measures will continue to be monitored. One source for this will be the analysis by the YJB of local youth justice plans.


  Drug treatment and testing orders (DTTOs) were rolled out nationally on 1 October 2000 following successful piloting. Under the CSR, £60 million has been made available for these orders over the next three years. This includes the treatment costs of around 6,000 orders in a full year. Two new accredited programmes for substance misusers are being introduced which can be incorporated into DTTOs. A target of 6,000 offenders completing these programmes each year has been set for 2003-04.

  The DTTO is designed to target drug misusing offenders who are committing high levels of acquisitive crime to feed a drug habit and will be made in cases where the offender is assessed to be suitable and willing for treatment. Drug abstinence orders and requirements are proposed in the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill for those offenders who do not have immediate treatment needs or who are unwilling to undergo treatment.

  Work led by the Department of Health is in hand to ensure that treatment services have the capacity to cope with any new demands resulting from new initiatives in the criminal justice system or elsewhere. The Department of Health and the Home Office are co-ordinating a recruitment campaign for drugs workers, paid for by the confiscated assets fund. By April 2001, up to 685 drug workers will have been recruited and trained.


  A number of specialist pathfinder programmes should receive accreditation by April 2001, including programmes for women offenders.

  There is emerging evidence that women have certain criminogenic needs additional to those of male offenders, and that these need to be addressed. These issues are currently subject to Home Office research and future decisions on provision of probation services for women will be taken when the results become available.


  The Government recognises the importance of preventative work with children and young people and especially in identifying and working with those children and young people at risk of offending.

  One of the key objectives for the multi-agency youth offending teams (YOTs) is their participation in crime prevention initiatives and the integration of the priorities and objectives of the youth justice plans with local Crime and Disorder plans. The very nature of their work means that YOTs are able to identify those children at risk of offending and work with them to promote youth inclusion. Under the YJB's national standards, funding from YOT partner agencies (police, probation, social services, education and health) for preventive services should represent 2.5 per cent of the overall YOT budget.

  Moreover, the new youth justice measures implemented nationally from 1 June 2000 allow more effective and earlier intervention to occur to divert young people away from a life of crime. The final warning scheme and new orders provide a more coherent basis for intervention with young offenders and a clearer focus on tackling the causes behind a young person's offending behaviour. The YJB through its development fund of more than £80 million over three years is helping to strengthen and reinforce local youth justice services and intervention programmes.

  In addition, the Youth Inclusion programme has been established. It is an inter-departmental programme managed by the YJB. The programme focuses on 50 of the most at risk 13-16 year olds in disadvantaged neighbourhoods across England and Wales. The aim is to reduce youth offending, truancy and school exclusion by involving young people in more positive activities. The programme is funded jointly by the YJB, Home Office, DfEE and DETR. There are currently 50 schemes in operation and it is anticipated that a further 20 will be coming on stream shortly. Projects include improving the educational standards of at risk young people and raising their employment prospects through training and qualifications, mentoring, lunchtime and after school homework clubs, sports and support services for parents and carers. The programme has funding of £13.5 million to March 2002.

  On Track has also been established which is a long term crime reduction programme aimed at children aged between 4-12 at risk of becoming involved in crime. The programme is being run in 24 areas and these are all in high crime and highly deprived communities. Approximately £30 million has been set aside for the programme for the current and next financial years. The programme is expected to run for seven years. The objective will be to establish a range of evidence-based preventive services such as family support training, pre-school education, family therapy and other specialist interventions. Families will be provided with consistent services throughout the period of the child's development.

21   Hedderman, C. (1999) The ACOP Enforcement Audit-Stage 1 London: ACOP.
Hedderman, C, and Hearnden, I. (2000) Improving Enforcement-The Second ACOP Audit London: ACOP. 

22   The Use of Information by Probation Services. A Thematic Inspection in 4 parts. Part 1: Making Standards Work: A Study by HMIP of enforcement practice in community penalties, 2000. Back

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