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Justice Update

Volume 638: debated on Monday 26 March 2018

I have today signed a Justice Devolution Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with London Councils and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).

This agreement will fundamentally change the way the criminal justice and offender management systems interact with local partners in London. 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.

This is a crucial area of focus for the Government. Spending on criminal justice in London is significant, estimated at £3.3 billion per annum across at least 14 different organisations at a national, regional and local level. Reoffending costs £2.2 billion in criminal justice costs alone. London accounts for almost 20% of offenders and reoffenders, at 76,000 and 19,000 respectively, and has a prison population accounting for a similar proportion but which is spread across 40 institutions nationally. Crime and the impact of crime is not felt equally across London, with the most vulnerable wards having three times as many victims of burglary, robbery and sexual offences as the least vulnerable wards.

In summary, the MoU covers the following areas:

Victims and witnesses

Work will aim to improve the experience for victims and witnesses from the point a crime is reported to the criminal conviction and beyond. Our ambition is to establish a more integrated service for victims and witnesses in London where victim support would be provided by a single person rather than several agencies. To help ensure a more seamless service for victims and witnesses before trial, we will devolve commissioning of support for witnesses at the pre-trial stage to MOPAC by April 2019.

We will also use the findings from the MOPAC-commissioned review of compliance with the victims’ code of practice and the provision of victim services in London to improve accountability and to inform local, regional and national policy and commissioning.

Reducing reoffending

This section of the MoU commits my Department to working with local partners to ensure that the right interventions are in place to reduce reoffending in the capital. This will include delivery of a joint review of probation services in London, and testing the co-commissioning of through the gate’ services.

Further to this, the MoJ, MOPAC and London Councils will undertake a joint programme of work around robust community sentence options, including considering opportunities to co-commission and better integrate services for the most complex, violent and persistent offenders, and developing a London strategy to make the most effective use of electronic monitoring.

A new approach to managing vulnerable cohorts

More women are sentenced to short custodial sentences in London than in the rest of the country, and the overall London youth reoffending rate of 47.5% remains stubbornly higher than the rate for England and Wales, which is currently 42.6%. This section sets out how we will work in partnership to address the complex needs of these vulnerable cohorts.

The MoU sets out a specific commitment to work collaboratively to align priorities and budgets on female offenders within London, exploring the scope for co-designing credible alternatives to custody. On young offenders, the MoJ will facilitate joint analysis with an aim of improving outcomes, with particular focus on addressing BAME disproportionality across the system. MoJ, MOPAC and London boroughs will pursue joint work programmes in relation to resettlement provision, transition to the adult estate, and the opportunities to co-commission a secure school for London.

Financial devolution

Finally, we are seeking, in the longer term, to foster a whole-system approach to offender management where powers, resources and decisions are better aligned and early intervention and prevention is incentivised. The MoU sets out our intention to work with MOPAC and London Councils to explore ways in which financial models can incentivise greater investment in preventative services which reduce demand on the CJS, particularly considering opportunities with specific cohorts, including female offenders and 18-25 year old offenders.

This summary covers the main commitments of the MoU, which is available in full at: Work will begin now to ensure we jointly deliver these commitments as quickly as possible.