(POP0030)

 

Written evidence submitted by the West Midlands Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (POP0030)

 

1. Please find below a response to the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into Police Responses from the West Midlands Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

 

What a modern police service, fit for the 2020s and beyond, looks like;

 

2. It is our belief that a police service, fit for the 2020s, depends on a number of different factors and national changes which need to be implemented:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What balance police forces in England and Wales should strike between a focus on preventing and solving crime and carrying out their other functions;

 

2. Notwithstanding the wealth of fantastic work undertaken by individual organisations to reduce reoffending, harm, and costs, the scale of the problems that the CJS is facing is huge. Prison and probation services are running beyond capacity; the backlog in the Crown, Magistrates, and Youth Courts remains significant; victim and witness attrition (particularly in cases involving Violence Against Women and Girls) is stubbornly high; and we continue to count the cost of persistent reoffending and disproportionality.

 

3. Decades of research have shown definitively that prosecution and prison are not effective ways to prevent crime or reduce reoffending. There are, of course, instances where there is little choice but to deprive someone of their liberty because of the nature of their offence. But for most offenders – particularly non-violent offenders, first time offenders, and young people – prison reduces the prospect of rehabilitation and increases the likelihood of future involvement in crime, magnifying cost and harm.

 

4. Prevention, Diversion and Early Help initiatives, by contrast, hold-out the best hope for preventing future crime by tackling the root causes of offending and are a visible example of justice being done and are not a ‘soft on crime’ option. Policing needs government to be prepared to invest in essential preventative public services, including youth services, mental health services and drug and alcohol treatment services.

 

5. What is more, evidence shows that expanding their use – particularly those with integrated offers, where individuals receive the wrap-around support they need under one roof – provides answers to some of the most stubborn problems within the CJS.

 

6. In the West Midlands, the PCC is collaborating with statutory and third sector partners to develop and promote multifaceted support programmes, conceived to prevent crime by reducing reoffending. Amongst the most exciting are:

 

  1. New Chance

 

7. New Chance – a holistic programme funded by the PCC for vulnerable women caught in crime due to desperation, often induced by substance misuse as well as poverty and domestic abuse – operates across the West Midlands Police area and is co-delivered by Anawim, Black Country Women’s Aid, Changing Lives, and Green Square Accord. The programme delivers specialist interventions around trauma, safety, emotional resilience, and interpersonal skills, with each support plan built around the unique needs of the individual. The impact New Chance has had on the reoffending of women in touch with their service, and their subsequent demand on criminal justice agencies, has been truly encouraging. A recent evaluation conducted by the University of Birmingham concluded that reoffending amongst New Chance service users with mental health support needs was 35-37% lower than comparator groups. What is more, reoffending amongst New Chance service users with substance misuse support needs was 51-55% lower than comparator groups.

 

  1. Pilot Problem Solving Court (PS) for Female Offenders

 

8. Last autumn, the PCC led a bid to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to establish a PSC for female offenders at Birmingham Magistrates. That bid was put together in collaboration with colleagues from Probation Service and Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), receiving widespread support from partners across the city.

 

9. Early conversations with the MoJ and other partners concerning implementation have been enormously positive. The shared vision is clear: to integrate rehabilitative services on a much greater scale to deliver multifaceted packages of support, overseen by a single judge who develops trusting relationships with participants through regular 1-2-1 reviews of their progress. The aim, as the name suggests, will be to solve the problems at the root of offending rather than simply punish the symptoms, preventing harm and crime over the long term.

 

10. The national and international evidence for PSCs is immensely encouraging. Although operating in a different context, Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDACs) – including the Black Country, Birmingham and Solihull, and Coventry FDACs – are proving that care proceedings can benefit hugely from taking a holistic and compassionate approach. National studies indicate that FDACs significantly increase the likelihood of family reunification; decrease the prospect of parental substance misuse and reoffending; and decrease the chance of recurrent care proceedings over the short and long term, reducing costs significantly (£2.30 is saved to the public pursue for every £1 spent on FDACs over 5 years).

 

  1. Diversion Delivery Project (DDP)

 

11. There is a wealth of brilliant work going on across the West Midlands – much of which is inspiring national conversation and emulation, such as New Chance – to help people desist from crime and lead fulfilling lives. Notwithstanding this, opportunities are being missed to maximise the impact of diversion opportunities because services are, all too often, set-up to address distinct needs, that is to say, just substance misuse or just mental health and subject to structural limitations, such as postcode lotteries. Because of this fractured landscape, it is tremendously difficult for individuals with co-occurring social challenges to positively engage with the support they require, propelling crime and harm.

 

12. That is why in the West Midlands, PCC Simon Foster and Assistant PCC Tom McNeil are driving a new initiative – the DDP – conceived to bring prevention and early help partners together to better integrate their offers. This initiative is fundamentally about promoting a new approach and culture regarding the design and delivery of diversion services. That approach recognises how individuals experience multiple social challenges concurrently and drives multifaceted programmes which offer truly holistic support.

 

13. By better connecting agencies with shared cohorts and strategic aims – and by providing an operational point of focus for partners to jointly identify and solve social challenges, including around the understanding and availability of various diversion schemes amongst statutory organisations – the DDP holds-out the possibility of solving some of the intractable problems plaguing the CJS around backlogs and access as well as, importantly, around preventing crime and harm over the long term.

 

14. We also think that policing should be routinely employing technologies to communicate authentic and credible information relevant to trust and confidence in policing in real-time and near real-time, directly to affected public and stakeholder audiences. 

 

15. Finally, local policing bodies and operational policing should be able to work with partners to understand, recognise and respond to harm, trauma, poor mental health, learning difficulties, disability, neuro-diversity and acquired brain injuries as they present in officers, staff, victims, witnesses and perpetrators. 

 

What roles police forces should prioritise;

 

16. ’Prioritisation’ is an unhelpful way to view police activity and roles.  Policing is expected to achieve effect across multiple areas of threat, risk, harm and demand, usually in partnership with others.  It is not that these threats, risks, harms and demands should be deprioritised and not met – they should, of course – it is that the expectations on policing and partners need to be clarified. It also needs to define the capability and capacity it is expected to offer, particularly where the capabilities and capacities expected of policing are, a) currently not well understood or are contested, b) where the totality of effect is delivered in partnership with others, or, c) where “prevention” is the primary objective.  It is our belief that areas should include: 

 

 

17. This prioritization process needs to be underpinned by a progressive and sensible approach to data sharing. Data sharing and data analytics, utilising anonymised and personalised data from multiple sources beyond those currently available, should be the norm in local partnerships, with policing able, with public support and independent scrutiny, to lawfully, ethically, accountably, transparently and effectively engage with partner- and police-led approaches to prevention, supporting positive behaviour and, where necessary, delivering enforcement activity. 

 

What can be done to improve community policing and increase trust in police officers and forces, including on funding and on disciplinary powers when police officer behaviour falls below required standards;

18. We believe a number of actions need to be taken to ensure that policing increases trust and confidence within our communities. These are as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specifically, what the Metropolitan Police must do to increase trust under its new Commissioner;

19. This is an issue to be addressed by the Mayor of London and Home Secretary. It is not within the remit of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.

 

What steps can be taken to improve national conviction rates, including via relationships with other bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service.

20. Decades of research have shown definitively that prosecution and prison are not effective ways to prevent crime or reduce reoffending. There are, of course, instances where there is little choice but deprive someone of their liberty because of the nature of their offence. But for most offenders – particularly non-violent offenders, first time offenders, and young people – prison reduces the prospect of rehabilitation and increases the likelihood of future involvement in crime, magnifying cost and harm.

 

21. A narrow focus on simply improving conviction rates will not, in and of itself, prevent crime and harm over the long term. Right across the criminal justice landscape – most notably in the courts – backlogs are clogging the system. These backlogs have been of serious concern for some time and were aggravated by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. If we are to tackle such problems, we need to stem demand on criminal justice services through effective prevention, early help and diversion initiatives, some of the very best in the West Midlands are outlined above. Through this we will be able to see higher conviction rates for areas of crime where an increase in conviction rates are greatly needed, for instance rape and sexual assault.

 

November 2022