Thursday, 10 May 2012

Justice Minister impressed by Staffordshire crime fighters

A crime fighting partnership that helps tackle the most challenging and prolific offenders in Stafford has been visited by Justice Minister Lord McNally who praised the ‘crucial role’ it plays in helping keep communities safe.

The Justice Minister met teams from Staffordshire Police, Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation, drug treatment agencies and other partners who are based together in a new “hub” at Stafford Police Station.

The joint office is part of Staffordshire’s 180° Integrated Offender Management scheme - a local framework for agencies to work more closely together to make sure that the offenders whose crimes cause most harm are managed in a co-ordinated way.

Deputy Head of Staffordshire Probation Paul Levy welcomed Lord McNally to Stafford, telling him:

“We want you to see the difference 180° makes to offending behaviour. When we as agencies work together, we can work out which people to target now because they’re causing big problems in their communities, and also who to intervene with to stop future offending.”

Lord McNally said:

"Innovative schemes such as 180° in Staffordshire tackle the most hardened, prolific criminals in the system and play a crucial role in making our communities safer.

"By working closely together local agencies, including probation and the police, can better target resources on the most prolific offenders, taking the right action at the right time.

"Offenders, such as those I met today, have often led chaotic lives and it is vital they are given the chance to reform. Programmes like this can help cut reoffending and better protect the public by combining support on issues such as addiction, housing, skills and employment, with robust monitoring.”  

Inspector Matthew Derrick, police operations manager at Stafford Police Station, explained how it works:

“We all want the same thing. Now we’re all working in the same office, we can sit down together and discuss all the aspects of a case. When you get information from several different agencies, that gives you a really rich picture of offending behaviour and you can take a holistic approach. That’s much more effective at cutting crime.”

The Minister met two Recovery Champions from local support service R.I.O.T. (Recovery Is Out There). They mentor drug-addicted offenders across several Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust offices. 

“People are scared of recovery,” said R.I.O.T.’s James McDermott. “But Recovery Champions can tell them the truth about rehab, because they’ve been through it themselves. They’ve heard all the excuses. And for addicts to see someone who’s been successful gives them hope that they can do it too.” 

Lord McNally then heard from a couple who were burgled in their home by a local offender who wanted money for recreational drug use. After the burglar had been sentenced, the couple bravely agreed to sit down and speak to him as part of Restorative Justice. Supported by the offender’s Probation Officer, they were able to make him understand the awful effect his crime had had on their lives. 

The victim said: “It was cathartic. I had been so angry, but the offender apologised, and then I could just let all that anger go. I thought I hated him, but after that, I feel sorry for him.” 

Her husband added, “It’s the emotional level that’s important for us – much more than any financial payback.”

The Minister went on to meet offenders who have worked with Community Safety Partnerships in Staffordshire through the 180° scheme to turn their lives around. They have secured college places and got qualifications. One man who was labeled by criminal justice agencies as a Prolific and Priority Offender and spent 14 years in prison has now had his order revoked by a court because he’s made such good progress.

Assistant Chief Constable Julian Blazeby, who is responsible for Integrated Offender Management in Staffordshire Police, said:

“We’re working together to cut crime and protect our communities, and have one of the leading partnerships nationally here in Staffordshire with our joined-up approach. 

“This will really benefit our communities, as by helping offenders in addressing the root causes of their criminal behaviour we can help them turn their lives around, resulting in them not being involved in crime in the future. 

“There’s already a long and successful history of joint working in this area - of course it’s more efficient and effective as we not only share our knowledge and experience but by being located together we can ensure we deal with what matters most.”

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