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27.03.18

Gauke announces ambition for criminal justice devolution in the capital

A new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will fundamentally change the criminal justice system (CJS) in London, the justice secretary has announced.

David Gauke signed the MoU with London Councils and the mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) yesterday.

The agreement will change the way the criminal justice and offender management systems interact with local partners in the capital.

Gauke explained: “We are moving towards a model where greater local influence is seen in a number of key delivery areas, including victims and witness services, future probation services, innovative use of electronic monitoring technologies, and specialist services for young offenders and women in the criminal justice system.

“We have also committed to explore jointly more ambitious options, such as budget devolution for certain groups of offenders in custody.”

Spending on criminal justice in London is estimated at £3.3bn a year across at least 14 different organisations at a national, regional and local level, with reoffending alone costing £2.2bn.

The capital accounts for almost 20% of offenders and reoffenders, but crime and its impact is not felt equally across London.

The most vulnerable wards have three times as many victims of burglary, robbery and sexual offences as the least vulnerable.

Gauke said that the MoU will aim to improve the experience for victims and witnesses from the reporting of a crime to the criminal conviction and beyond, with an ambition of a more integrated and seamless service.

Commissioning of support for witnesses at the pre-trial stage will be devolved to MOPAC by April 2019.

Local partners will work with the Ministry of Justice to reduce reoffending in London, with a joint review of probation services and testing of the co-commissioning of “Through the Gate” services.

The MoU sets out a commitment to work collaboratively to manage vulnerable offenders, such as women and young offenders.

The justice secretary explained that more women receive short custodial sentences in London than the rest of the country, and that youth offending remains stubbornly higher in London than the figure for England and Wales.

Credible alternatives to custody for women will be explored and there will be an analysis aiming to improve outcomes for young offenders, with particular focus on addressing BAM disproportionality.

Ways will be explored to allow London to invest more in preventative service, looking at opportunities for the devolution of custody budgets for certain groups of offenders.

Gauke said: “This is a significant step towards greater autonomy and accountability for London and a sign of this government’s deep commitment to devolution.

“I envisage this as the first step towards a model where London’s authorities play a much more active role in managing offenders – particularly those who require the most comprehensive support.”

Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, added: “By joining up local services I believe we can increase support for victims of crime and reduce the rate of reoffending in London, helping make our communities safer.

“This agreement will ensure that decisions about justice services in London prioritise the interests of Londoners, and it is an important step towards the devolution of powers over criminal justice in our city.”

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